Trailer for The Little Mermaid (Disney)
Score: Three stars (Photo: Image processing, Walla system)
Next year marks the 35th anniversary of the release of Disney's "The Little Mermaid." A film that infected countless girls and children with mermaid obsessions, inducted the names Howard Ashman and Alan Menken into the soundtrack Hall of Fame - and also became a significant moment in the history of Disney and cinematic animation in general. Its overwhelming success heralded a new direction for the veteran studio, which was already considering switching its focus to films instead of cartoons, and spawned the so-called "Disney Renaissance" — a string of beloved and successful blockbusters, including "Aladdin," "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Lion King."
"The Little Mermaid" received two sequels released directly for home viewing as well as festive re-releases, and this week it was its turn to join the growing list of classic Disney movies with hyperrealistic remakes — ostensibly filmed, but still largely animated. At this point, any release of such a remake, to the cinema or straight to Disney Plus, already feels less like another cinematic event and more like another day at the office. It's easy and even obvious to accept it with mild bitter cynicism, as just another boring recycled product Disney provides to squeeze some more juice out of their safe hits. The new movie is indeed all of those things, but the surprising truth is that it does it pretty well.
More on the new version of "The Little Mermaid""The name Catherine is repulsive: The movie "The Little Mermaid"
stings Kate Middleton named Meghan Markle?
Black girls first saw the black "Little Mermaid." Here's how they reacted
The best thing about the movie. Halle Bailey from The Little Mermaid (Photo: official website, Giles Keyte, Disney Enterprises)
Like that one from the 2023s, the <> "Little Mermaid" tells the story of Ariel, the youngest daughter of the sea king Triton. Ariel, like many teenagers before her, spends most of her day in an area of interest that her father and older sisters don't really understand. In her case, it's about human culture, and later about one specific person—Eric, the handsome young prince of a nearby kingdom. After rescuing Eric from drowning, her father destroys her beloved collection of human artifacts and she runs away from home.
The girl in love falls straight into the octopus arms of the evil sea witch Ursula, who offers her to replace the colorful tail with human legs. To quote the original Hebrew dub: "The price is cheap, only the voice." Mute and confused, Ariel finds herself in the human world and takes refuge in Prince Eric's palace. In order to remain in her human form, she must give the prince a true love kiss, and if she fails to do so within three days, she will return to her original form and "belong" to Ursula - a fate that is not entirely clear, but certainly dark and frightening. While the chemistry between her and Eric is immediate, obstacles still stand in their way. For example, the fact that Ariel does not realize that Ariel is the mysterious girl who saved his life.
More in Walla!
Hollow Tree: Why Do You Need Disney's Renewed Pinocchio?
See full article >
Thoughtful replay of the original. From "The Little Mermaid" (Photo: official website, Disney Enterprises)
The new film makes some changes to the story Disney created under the (loose) inspiration of Hans Christian Andersen, but they are not particularly substantial. Eric got a new backstory as a baby rescued from a shipwreck and adopted by a king and queen of some Caribbean island, Ariel's sisters have new names, the seagull from the cartoon is now a Sola seabird and so on. Some of the changes are successful, others are puzzling and cumbersome, but none are as infuriating as other bizarre Disney outings from the past. There are also three new songs courtesy of Alain Menken and Lin-Manuel Miranda, an avid fan of the original. This is probably the most similar remake to the original after "The Lion King" - perhaps because of the special place that "Mermaid" occupies in Disney's private history, and perhaps so as not to further deter those who were outraged by the casting of a mermaid with a darker complexion than porcelain.
The racist reactions to casting Halle Bailey in the lead role are even more depressing after watching the film - not only is she a great fit for the role of Ariel, she's probably the best thing about the movie. First because she is a great singer, but also because her Ariel is everything the little mermaid is supposed to be - curious, expressive and energetic, full of joy of life and simply charming. Disney's version of "The Little Mermaid" is a simple and even overly simple story, but something worked in it on an emotional enough level to make generations of viewers fall in love with the mermaid princess. The new version has that too – even when pretty silly things happen, the emotion is compelling enough to put all the pieces together. Bailey has played no small part in that success.
More in Walla!
"Bambi" is 80 years old, and his moral is more important today than ever
See full article >
Ursula could have benefited from going deeper. From "The Little Mermaid" (Photo: official website, Disney Enterprises)
The fact that the new "Little Mermaid" is about the same as the old one means that all the problems in the original story also exist here. It's a longer film, but it doesn't use the extra time to add depth and interest to the characters, but rather dilutes the existing story with water. Take Prince Eric, for example – even though he now has a bit more background and a solo song (not very interesting), he's still more of a fantasy Ariel projects onto him than someone the audience falls in love with in his own right. Accordingly, actor Jonah Hauer-King is a good casting for him because he is completely milky.
Ursula is also a character who could benefit from some deepening, but Disney didn't take the opportunity to update the character beyond "she's evil and hates King Triton." It's not the fault of Melissa McCarthy, who plays her well and turns out to be a pretty good singer. Javier Bardem is reasonable and down as King Triton, while David Diggs (forever Jefferson from the musical "Hamilton", and also the hero of "Ice Train") is quite enjoyable as his faithful servant Sebastian. And by the way, Sebastian - the movie looks pretty good and is rich in color and movement, but crashes in the face when it comes to its cartoon characters. The sea creatures just passing by in the background or popping in to visit Namber "in the sea" look a little better, but Sebastian, Scattle and Flounder are quite ugly, limited in facial expressions due to the pretension to realism and somehow still don't look like a real animal.
More in Walla!
No Disney, no misogynist: The new version of The Little Mermaid is exactly what we've always wanted
See full article >
Just why are the fish so ugly? From "The Little Mermaid" (Photo: official website, Disney Enterprises)
Over the years, Disney has received every possible criticism of their princess team, especially Ariel's character selling her voice to win the prince's kiss. The problem is obvious, but it's a bit unfair and mostly superficial to perceive Ariel as nothing more than a "bad role model for girls." First of all because the message was never "be beautiful and shut up", but also because Ariel is a character who is all about personality and emotion, who remains active even without a voice. The remake tries to deal with this problem without really changing the story itself - it thickens Ariel's curiosity and instinct for adventure and also gives more space to her pain and difficulty when she just rises above water. She also has a beautiful new song that is sung in her inner dialogue and creates a painful dissonance between her turbulent inner world and what she manages to show outwardly.
As an elaborate replay of the original, The Little Mermaid is a pretty good movie. Just don't expect anything more from him. There is no new depth here, a different interpretation of the plot and any character, just a remake in vivid colors and with nice cinematography (don't be intimidated by the dark trailers - it's a very bright and colorful film). Fortunately, if you want a completely new and much more far-reaching interpretation of this story, there are two other animated versions that have done it great: Hayao Miyazaki's "Fonio on the Cliff by the Sea" is a surreal, strange and child-appropriate interpretation of the same story, while Disney's "Luca" moves even further away from the original fairy tale and tells the story of a boy from a family of sea monsters who escapes from home to a small human town in Italy. Give them a chance, and you probably won't regret it.
- Movie Review
- The Little Mermaid