Yes, I did it, I watched the new Little Mermaid movie. I do love a good B-Movie, and I also hate myself, so here is my review. Off the bat, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the original cartoon. I know of it and have seen lots from it, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it from start to end. This led to a lot of questions I had, but I will come on to that later.
You know most of the details. This version of The Little Mermaid is directed by Rob Marshall. He is known for movies like Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and the reboot/sequel Mary Poppins Returns.
I will spoil the movie, but I will warn you. Basically, Ariel is fascinated by the human world. She has collected lots of items that have fallen overboard from ships and wonders what it would be like to have feet. I would say that having feet isn’t a good thing because of the smell, but then, she’s a fish on her bottom half.
You know the rest of the story, her dad tells her not to go up there, her auntie Ursula tricks her into going, she meets a prince and they fall in love. This was weird since it’s exactly how I met my wife. You know the rest of the story, Ursula tricks Ariel into giving up her voice so she can become the Queen of the Sea. Ariel kisses a prince to break the spell, blah blah blah.
Now, I would have put money on Disney changing the ending. Ariel don’t need no man, she doesn’t need love and she’s not going to change herself just for the D. Shockingly, none of this happens. The end of the movie is the same as the original (although I’ve never seen it), but she gets legs, she marries Eric and they live happily ever after. Stunning and brave in this day and age.
I was genuinely shocked. It had a nice message that happiness can be found in any relationship. You don’t have to struggle on your own, you can change for a person, for the good, and be happy.
End Of Spoilers
I’m going to say this – the movie was actually pretty good. There are issues, but overall, it’s well-directed, and the songs are good, as are most of the actors. It was perfectly serviceable. But, and this is a big but, there are then issues that threaten to turn a perfectly good movie into something else.
In the original cartoon, everything is bright, colorful, and fun. Being a cartoon, you don’t have to make it look real, you can make it look however you want, just underwater. In this new version, yes, there are colors, but everything is muted. It’s like they turned all the saturation down and it just looks dull.
Being live-action, it’s then other things that start to annoy. Why do some fish talk and others not? How come Scuttle, the gannet, can eat non-talking fish? I guess the non-talking ones are OK to kill and eat? How can Ariel breathe in the water and in the air? How come her skin isn’t all wrinkly, like if you stay in the bath too long? In a cartoon, you would ignore this kind of thing, but in a live-action that pulls it closer to some form of reality it feels like you need to ask these questions.
The hair was very annoying, underwater it always flows nicely out of the way of everyone’s faces. When Ariel heads up to the human world, it drapes all over her good bits. Added to that, why do mermaids have shells over their boobs? They are fish, why are they covering up? Especially since, at the end of the movie, you can see the merman’s nipples, why not the women? Feels misandrist. Also, I might be going off-point a bit.
The cast of the movie range from perfectly serviceable to really good. Halle Bailey is actually great in this. I wasn’t sure what to expect from her, but she’s really good and she can certainly hold a tune when singing. Jonah Hauer-King, who plays Eric, was a little dull and uninteresting. Javier Bardem is here, but he’s getting a pay cheque and basically reprising his role from Pirates: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Phoning it in.
How Awkwafina keeps getting work is beyond me. The weird thing here is she’s cast in a voice-only part. Her voice is the most annoying thing about her. I honestly wanted to jump into the movie and strangle that bird!
Again, weirdly, the best performance in the movie is Melissa McCarthy. She’s really good, evil but with a bit of humor to her. I really like Melissa McCarthy in this movie. Wow, there’s a sentence I thought I would never say.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room, no, not McCarthy again, but the race swapping. Another weird one, but race-swapping Ariel was actually the least offensive thing about the movie. You find out that all of Ariel’s sisters are from all races and ethnicities. How?
It turns out that King Triton has basically been around the world and banged a different chick from each continent. “I fancy a bit of raw Sushi…I’m off to the coast of Japan”. I can get that, if I was the King of the Sea, that’s exactly how I would abuse my powers.
There are other bits in The Little Mermaid that feel a bit racist though. Eric’s mum is played by Noma Dumezweni. She’s obviously a stepmother, but it’s never mentioned at all. As if they are including her for a reason, but are too scared to address anything about it. Also the movie is set in and around the British colonial waters of the Caribbean. So you have two accents, British and Jamaican. The Jamaican accents in this movie? Oh boy! Way over the top and hitting on caricature. I get it, Sebastian, you’re from Jamaica.
As I said, The Little Mermaid isn’t a bad movie, but the dull colors and a 2 hour run time make it feel like its not for kids. I totally understand why kids would have loved the original, it’s colorful, 90 minutes long and apparently great fun. This new version feels a little dull, and drab, and I can’t see a kid sitting still for 2 hours to enjoy this. I had to watch it in sections as it was just too long.
I’m a sucker for a good musical, so I don’t mind a song and dance routine if it’s done well. I only recently watched Marshall’s Chicago and I really liked it. The musical numbers are done really well and they are engaging. Here, the musical numbers are just OK. There’s no real passion in them, they are just sung and filmed to get through. It was a shame. The CG, as with most modern movies these days, is hit and miss, mostly miss. The underwater scenes are well done, but as soon as you have a person in the shot, it just doesn’t work. Everyone is sitting in a studio, in front of a green screen and it’s really noticeable. Again, a shame since it cost $250 million to make.
As a stand-alone movie, it’s OK, a perfectly average 2.5 out of 5 stars. However, there is the original, and the comparison must be made. Against the original this is not a good movie. I can’t help but think how a budget of $250 million could have been spent on digitally remastering the original AND bringing one or two original IPs to the screen and that makes me sad. It’s like Disney just needs to burn money at the moment.
The Little Mermaid is now streaming, but I am tempted to say save your money and just watch the original again.
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