Much internet commentary was had around the race-swapping of the lead character from a famous 1837 fairy tale by Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen. When news of the casting for The Little Mermaid broke, it rapidly became yet another front line in the seemingly endless culture war.
The Independent newspaper would go on to say:
“The backlash against Halle Bailey’s Ariel is as silly as it is predictable…”
Meanwhile, online outlets also weighed in. Screen Rant leaning in with:
“It’s tough to overlook the racism of this backlash…”
On the other side of the line, people wondered why the over 150-year-old heritage of the character was not respected, or why these types of casting decisions only seem to be going one way. Whatever your opinions of the casting, the reviews are in and it would appear that Halle Bailey’s performance is no issue at all. In fact, all the praise is focused on her debut performance in the lead, saying she is clearly on her way to the top, and the best thing in the movie. As for the rest of the movie? Not so much…
“Its most iconic moments are borrowed and copied wholesale, serving as little more than a reminder of simpler days watching clamshell VHS tapes released from the Disney Vault. Maybe that’s enough for some people. But maybe, like Ariel, we should want more.”
Leigh Morrison, AV Club
“Bailey is both the finished film’s only unmitigated triumph and the best argument for this whole live action remake enterprise in one shimmering mermaidcore package.”
Ellen E. Jones, The Guardian
“As The Little Mermaid crawls by at a snail’s pace, the wondrous moments are weighed down by wasted opportunities for spectacle, emotion, and unapologetic bombast.”
Kristy Puchko, Mashable
“As the studio has done with other live-action remakes, Disney betrays its own lack of imagination and an essential misreading of what made its original children’s fare such a joy to audiences in the first place.”
Angelica Jade Bastien, Vulture
The Little Mermaid is currently sitting at 69% (6.7/10) on Rotten Tomatoes, with the reviews echoing that Bailey’s performance is excellent as Ariel. That score puts it around Lady and the Tramp and Peter Pan and Wendy levels, but far behind Disney live-action efforts like The Jungle Book and Cinderella. That said, these reviews also put Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin at 57% and that was an unexpected delight, so what do they know?
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