There have been many part-twos and live-action remakes of Disney films. They don’t usually generate the run to the box office that Disney, and the theaters playing them, would necessarily like.
There was a live-action film of “Pinocchio made just last year, actually, by Robert Zemeckis, starring Tom Hanks. This film didn’t win Best Picture, but Guillermo del Toro’s “Pinocchio,” which was NOT live-action, got him a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes and an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film!
The question is, director Rob Marshall’s “The Little Mermaid” is live action so, can this Mermaid, with the help of Lin-Manuel Miranda, stand out where others such as “Alice in Wonderland,” “Peter Pan & Wendy,” “Aladdin” and “Pinocchio” never really could?
I’ll give you that the cartoon version of “Pinocchio” is considered to be the best Disney cartoon of all time by many, but it’s not about to come anywhere close to the music, the songs, the color and the beauty of this rendition of “The Little Mermaid.”
I want to add that we’re not talking about a puppet on some strings or a guy in a lamp who helps you if he’s not busy when rubbed. The Little Mermaid is a sophisticated story, and the voices used to tell that story must be powerful, robust and versatile. You’ll be happy with what you hear here.
The box office might not be as significant because it’s possible it wouldn’t appeal to the young male demographic, but even they’d like it if they’d give it a chance.
With her expressive face, Halle Bailey has proven she has the charm and voice to be Ariel and to attract the audience and prove the naysayers wrong. But will the story keep the interest of those who know the original cartoon back and forth?
Can it win over the harshest of critics (those who are married to the original) if they’re not so keen on changes to the original songs, such as “Poor Unfortunate Souls” performed by Melissa McCarthy, with new lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda?
Will they enjoy, as I very much did, “The Scuttlebutt,” Music by Alan Menken (he wrote the score for the ’89 original), Lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Performed by Daveed Diggs and Awkwafina? I don’t know how anyone couldn’t.
The movie is glorious in appearance. The sea creatures are a wonder, especially the merpeople, the sirens and King Triton (Javier Bardem). Triton gathers his daughters for a meeting, but where is Ariel, his youngest? She’s swimming and singing her way to her favorite place, the shipwrecks at the bottom of the ocean. Sebastian (Daveed Diggs) is trying to stop her, but the headstrong teenager isn’t paying attention to him. This is where she stores the human items she has collected over the years and where Ariel likes to come, as she desires to be one of them.
At one point, she wanders off alone well, not totally; she does have Flounder (Jacob Tremblay) with her. Suddenly, Ariel’s eyes catch bright lights coming from above. She must take a look. Fireworks from a ship belonging to Eric (Jonah Hauer-King), the queen’s son, is having a swell time until the ship hits a rock. Not long after, it catches on fire. The scene is very dramatic.
She can’t help herself. After seeing Eric as his body sinks into the ocean, she helps return him to the surface. As he awakens, he hears the siren voice with his own ears, something very few people have ever experienced. It’s here that they both fall in love and where Ariel makes an ill-advised, foolish blunder; a deal with the sea witch, Ursula, who gets Ariel’s voice if Ariel fails. Ariel doesn’t just put her voice on the line for love; she also places her father’s title on the line, something she very selfishly isn’t considering. Mermaids are not ever to engage with humans. But Ariel knows in her soul Eric and she are to be together.
Around this time, we are also given a lesson about the ocean’s coral and what humans have done to destroy it.
There’s a twist in the film that I won’t tell you about here, but I know you’ll love this rendition. You’ll tap your toes, sing along, and have a big smile on your face when you leave the theater, the very place one should watch this version of “The Little Mermaid.” Don’t wait for cable. The art direction and special effects alone merit you to observe this on the big screen with really good sound. By the way, I admired Melissa McCarthy’s cruelty as Ursula. Let me know if you agree with me on her performance.
The Little Mermaid
Directed by: Rob Marshall
Written by: David Magee, Rob Marshall
Starring: Halle Bailey, Jonah Hauer-King, Melissa McCarthy, Javier Bardem, Daveed Diggs, Jacob Tremblay, Awkwafina
Rated: PG (Action/Peril|Some Scary Images)
Genres: Kids & Family, Musical
Distributed by: Walt Disney Pictures
Producers: Marc Platt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Rob Marshall, John DeLuca