Families, children and movie lovers of all ages have a chance to return Under the Sea to a magical live action retelling of Disney’s The Little Mermaid.
The live action remake stars Halle Bailey as Ariel and follows much of the same story as the original animated film from 1989. Ariel dreams of living above the water and learning as much about humans as possible. This is largely explored through Ariel’s curiosity of Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King), the adopted son of Queen Selina (Noma Dumezweni).
However, Ariel’s father King Triton (Javier Bardem) forbids contact with the human world. Triton’s anti-human attitude results from Ariel’s mother being killed at the hands of a human years before. As in the original, Triton discovers Ariel’s curiosity for humans and destroys her collection of human objects.
Ariel’s aunt Ursula (Melissa McCarthy) provides a solution: she will provide Ariel with a potion to turn human for three days. Ariel must get Eric to give her the kiss of true love. However, Ursula plays dirty and forces Ariel to give up her voice.
Ariel heads to the surface with her friends Flounder (voiced by Jacob Tremblay) and Sebastian (voiced by Daveed Diggs), who help her attempt to court Eric without her voice. Ariel is also helped by her friend Scuttle, a northern gannet (voiced by Awkwafina).
The live action remake has a lot of heart and soul, similar to the original movie, though it certainly holds its own. Bailey’s powerful vocals when she sings are enough to give viewers goosebumps and a few cheers (indeed, the whole audience in the theatre when I saw the film cheered loudly at the end of Part of Your World). She is the perfect choice to play Ariel, succeeding in portraying Ariel’s curiosity about the human world and holding her own in every scene.
McCarthy is also formidable as Ursula, and she plays a deliciously evil character on par with Pat Carroll’s portrayal in the original. McCarthy’s vocals will have you singing along to Ursula’s Poor Unfortunate Souls and almost rooting for the sea witch.
Flounder and Sebastian are mostly similar to their animated counterparts. Indeed, Sebastian acts as the film’s comic relief during several moments, often complaining to himself about all he has to put up with serving as Triton’s majordomo, and later, as Ariel’s guardian.
The film also contains several original compositions, sung by various characters. Prince Eric even gets his own number as he laments the life he leads, which seems to rival that of Ariel’s. Hauer-King has some powerful vocal cords of his own and he can certainly carry a note.
The music of the film is just as magical as the original. The original songs expand on the story and are perfect for kids to sing along to as they watch the film.
The Little Mermaid is a visually appealing movie. It’s clear the filmmakers (led by director Robert Marshall) did their homework when it came to portraying the ocean. Indeed, viewers will feel like they, too, are part of Ariel’s world and are swimming alongside her, Flounder and Sebastian.
Minor spoiler here: Yes, there is a cameo by Jodi Benson, Ariel’s voice actress in the original film. The cameo provides just the right amount of nostalgia and it’s especially appropriate, as Benson spends her cameo interacting with Bailey.
The Little Mermaid is playing everywhere in theatres. It will hopefully be available soon to stream on Disney+.