Monday, May 22, 2023

The Little Mermaid (2023) - Movie Review

The Movie: The Little Mermaid

The Director: Rob Marshall 

The Cast: Halle Bailey, Jonah Hauer-King, Daveed Diggs, Awkwafina, Jacob Tremblay, Noma Dumezweni, Javier Bardem, Melissa McCarthy

The Story: A young mermaid makes a deal with a sea witch to trade her beautiful voice for human legs so she can discover the world above water and impress a prince.

The Review:

*queue Part of Your World music*

Look at this site, isn't it neat?
Wouldn't you think my reviews are complete?
Wouldn't you think I'm the guy
The guy who's seen everything?
Look at this trove, no movie untold
How many movies can one website hold?
Looking around here you'd think
Sure, he's seen everything...

Well, at least now I've seen the new live action remake of Disney's The Little Mermaid and it really is everything. Everything I was hoping for and really a lot more. Before I get too carried away with recreating classic Disney songs, let me get on with my review.

You might say I was a bit inspired by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken to start off this review but it's not just that. This entirely new reimagining of Disney's take on The Little Mermaid story is a beautifully crafted work of art that manages to carry over the charm and magic of the animated version while also giving us something new to enjoy. Director Rob Marshall, and everyone else involved, really did a fantastic job of making me and the rest of the audience want to be part of this world and I wonder if I was so happy with the final product because a lot Disney's live action efforts haven't come close to recreating their predecessors' experiences.

I don't want to dwell on that too much because I just want this film to have its own place and its own space without excessive comparison or expectation so enough about that. Let's talk about Halle Bailey. This young woman should be on her way to superstardom with all the talent and charisma she shows off in this movie. First and foremost, she can sing. Like really, really sing. To the point where, in my humble opinion, she actually elevates the songs in the film and gives them her unique take on them maybe as a way of saying this is my Ariel and I'm totally okay with that.

Bailey is such a delight to watch on screen whether she's swimming through computer animated underwater environments or running around the local village interacting with shopkeepers and onlookers. What's most important is how she makes all of this magical stuff going on believable in the live action setting while still maintaining the essential fairy tale quality as well. I know she's done a lot of TV work and music videos alongside her sister Chloe but it was still impressive to see how well she handled her first feature film and as the lead character, not just any lead character but one of Disney's most iconic female leads.

All of that being said, I think a harder role to fill and get right is that of Prince Eric and I felt like Jonah Hauer-King did a decent enough job taking it on although he doesn't really stand out either. Not a huge complaint, I just feel like the casting could have been a little better here. Aside from that, my least favorite performance in the movie comes from Javier Bardem as King Triton. I'm not sure he's as much at fault here as he just feels so physically out of place instead of being properly immersed and integrated into the rest of the underwater world.

Melissa McCarthy, on the other hand or maybe tentacle in this case, is pretty fantastic as Ursula and I think she had to be for this movie to work so big shout out to her for getting it right. I love how she fully emobdies the character without being a carbon copy of the animated version which is no small task considering how amazing Pat Carroll's performance was in that film. Overall, I was pretty happy with the casting of the film including some pretty great voice work from Daveed Diggs and Awkwafina as Sebastian and Scuttle respectively.

Visually, this movie is just stunning, I mean look at the two images I've added to this review page. The underwater scenes are amazing and are so eye popping on the big screen, it reminded me of the first time watching Finding Nemo and how breathtaking of an experience that was. There were a few moments here and there like the aforementioned King Triton scenes that felt a little CGI heavy and made things look a little out of place but overall, I feel like great care was taken to get this movie right as a theatrical experience. I did not see it in 3D which I don't think is essential although the screening I attended did include IMAX enhanced scenes which were pretty fantastic so I would recommend that format if you are able.

Musically, you know what to expect with Part of Your World, Kiss the Girl, and Poor Unfortunate Souls all firmly in place as the anchors that have always made the animated version such an iconic classic. As I mentioned earlier, Halle Bailey nails every one of her musical moments and Part of Your World is a beautiful showcase for both her and the movie as a whole. With all of the musical numbers and an expanded story overall, the run time clocks in at about two hours and 15 minutes which might be a bit much for the littlest of family members although there's so much to enjoy, maybe they can handle it without too much of a struggle.

The Verdict:
The Little Mermaid succeeds in making you want to be part of that world and Halle Bailey announces herself as a force to be reckoned with as an actor, as a singer, and as a legit Disney princess. There's nothing fishy about this live action remake that takes audiences under the sea to find that magical Disney treasure we've been looking for. I feel bad for any poor, unfortunate souls who miss out on such a fun theatrical experience.

Special Guest Review:
"I loved the movie and I'm glad that I was able to watch it. It brings back all the childhood memories. I had goosebumps." - The Little Merm-Ina

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