It’s time. Only 2 days left before Disney fans all over the world get to see their favorite mermaid and one of the OG Disney princesses, Ariel, come back to life in a live-action remake of The Little Mermaid.
With Rob Marshall at the helm, the film brings back fresh renditions of several songs from the original movie. The production’s star-studded cast includes:
- Halle Bailey as Ariel
- Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric
- Melissa McCarthy as Ursula
- Javier Bardem as King Triton
- Daveed Diggs as Sebastian (voice)
- Jacob Tremblay as Flounder (voice)
- Awkwafina as Scuttle (voice)
Critics from several different publications got access to early screenings of the movie, and they’ve let their readers in on what to expect from the Disney musical.
What do the reviews for The Little Mermaid look like?
Variety – “Halle Bailey and Melissa McCarthy erase any doubts about this remake’s see-worthiness”
“Between Bailey’s wide-eyed urchin and McCarthy’s over-the-top octo-hussy, the movie comes alive — not in some zombified form, like re-animated Disney debacles ‘Dumbo’ and ‘Pinocchio,’ but in a way that gives young audiences something magical to identify with, and fresh mermaid dreams to aspire to.”
First clip from Melissa McCarthy’s version of “Poor Unfortunate Souls” from ‘THE LITTLE MERMAID’ has been released. pic.twitter.com/LNUC2F7dKh
— DiscussingFilm (@DiscussingFilm) May 17, 2023
For Variety’ Peter Debruge, The Little Mermaid unfortunately turned out to be a messy compilation of overdone visual effects. Ariel’s “rainbow bright” tail and realistic animal companions don’t offer as much comfort as their 90s counterparts.
However, what shone through is the casting, particularly that of Halle Bailey and Melissa McCarthy.
While Bailey’s Bambi eyes and radiant eyes paint her as the princess we all know and love, McCarthy embodied Ursula so perfectly, it was as if the deep-sea villain had herself come to life.
Entertainment Weekly – “Halle Bailey swims (and sings) her way to stardom”
“It’s not the new songs or even the dazzling visuals breathing new life into this watery world that do it. It’s Bailey, her singular performance as Ariel, and the opportunity to give the world a Disney princess for a new generation, with all of the Mouse House whimsy on one side of the scales, and a depth and humanity that feels neither preachy nor performative on the other.”
For EW’s Maureen Lee Lenker, Rob Marshall’s The Little Mermaid was a sight to behold. While all cast members – Halle Bailey, Jonah Hauer-King, Melissa McCarthy, Daveed Diggs – did justice to their roles, what stood out for Lenker was the dynamic between Marshall’s Ariel and Prince Eric.
Ariel does not seem to be a naïve teenager with an infatuation. Instead, she is shown to be an inquisitive young woman who wants to explore worlds beyond her own. And that is precisely what binds her to Eric, who also wants to know a life beyond his own.
Halle Bailey has done a remarkable job as Ariel, even personalizing her struggles. When the mermaid gives up her voice in exchange for legs, Bailey loses her voice too – but not her screen presence. Through seemingly minor head titles and glances, Bailey is able to put up “a type of performance and incumbent stardom we rarely see anymore.”
BBC – “A fairytale ‘for the age of Marvel movies’”
“This Little Mermaid is a lot. But at its heart, it is the same girl-fish-out-of-water story, which has the great advantages of Halle Bailey as a captivating Ariel, Daveed Diggs as the perfect comic voice of Sebastian the crab, and songs from the 1989 original that have remained audience favourites for decades. The new Little Mermaid is uneven, but it is also a spectacle with an allure and vitality of its own.”
Halle Bailey’s “captivating” Ariel stood out for BBC’s Caryn James too, in a movie that predominantly turned out to be a mix of Rob Marshall’s musical films and Broadway productions. While the songs and actors made for a somewhat positive viewing experience, the film’s overdone CGI effects and misguided focus took center stage.
Independent UK – “A luminous Halle Bailey aside, this live-action remake stinks”
“But there’s a real stink of obligation to everything that exists around Bailey and her star-making turn. There are two pretty but inconsequential new ballads, and a rap performed by Awkwafina’s Scuttle that is somehow a real Lin-Manuel Miranda rap and not, from what it sounds like, a parody of one.”
While Halle Bailey’s performance as Ariel did appeal to Independent’s Clarisse Loughrey, it unfortunately only managed to become “a glimpse of a Little Mermaid that could have been”. It was not enough to compensate for the remake’s lack of creative risk and poor filmmaking.
Collider – “A rare Disney live-action remake that captures the magic of the original”
“By further expanding this world and these characters, Marshall and Magee are doing exactly the type of expansion these remakes should be going for, and sets a strong template for Disney going forward. The Little Mermaid might not match the greatness of the original, but it’s the rare remake that feels worthy of being part of our world.”
For Collider’s Ross Bonaime, The Little Mermaid’s live-action remake was everything it could’ve been. One main element that helped elevate this film above other remakes for Bonaime was how Marshall successfully – and intelligently – expanded on the original story, adding details that allow the audience to feel more connected to the character.
For example, the film establishes Prince Eric as “more than just a pretty face”, as someone who feels like he doesn’t belong. This makes Ariel’s infatuation with him more meaningful, and, in turn, their love story more believable.
— The Little Mermaid (@LittleMermaid) May 24, 2023
Unfortunately, The Little Mermaid does not seem to have pleased critics overall. While Halle Bailey has clearly established herself as the star here, the production is unlikely to be one for the books – at least based on early reviews.
But there’s one thing that the movie will always have to its advantage – nostalgia. When audiences catch The Little Mermaid in theaters later this week, they will feel the magic of Disney fairytales – whether the film brings it to the field or not.