The Little Mermaid Movie Review: Halle Bailey's film is a perfect escape to fantasy land

The Little Mermaid Movie Review: Halle Bailey's film is a perfect escape to fantasy land

Halle Bailey as Ariel, is energetic and expressive but not charming. Her visage lacks the softness of naivety and the sweetness of a teenage girl.

Troy RibeiroUpdated: Friday, May 26, 2023, 02:21 PM IST
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Title: The Little Mermaid

Director: Rob Marshall

Cast: Halle Bailey, Jonah Hauer-King, Javier Bardem, Melissa McCarthy, Daveed Diggs, Jacob Tremblay, Awkwafina, Noma Dumezweni, Jessica Alexander, Simone Ashley, Art Malik

Where: In theatres near you

Rating: 3 stars

“But a mermaid has no tears hence she suffers more…”

The film begins with this quote from Hans Christian Andersen, the author of this tragic fairy tale. But unlike the original, where the mermaid princess is motivated by her desire for an immortal soul, the mermaid in this reimagined Walt Disney narrative tells us, “I wanna be where the people are.”

This live-action film boasts of all Walt Disney tropes; fantasy, a princess in distress, a wicked witch, a prince charming, and a happy ending. It is a remake of their 1989 animated musical fantasy film.

Here, the Little Mermaid is Ariel (Halle Bailey), the youngest of King Triton’s seven daughters. King Triton (Javier Bardem), the ruler of the undersea kingdom inhabited by merpeople, forbids her to swim near the shore believing that humans are violent predators. But, a curious and head-strong Ariel disobeys her father and explores the unchartered waters with her fish friend, Flounder (voiced by Jacob Tremblay), and ends up rescuing the daring adventurer Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King), who nearly drowns in the waters after his shipwrecks in a storm.

She is mesmerised by his looks, and he by her voice, but they are both from different worlds. She is a mermaid, and he is human, the adopted son of Queen Selina (Noma Dumezweni).

Due to the impossibility of being together, Ariel agrees to a deal with her octopus-bottom Aunt Ursula (Melissa McCarthy) to trade in her excellent voice for a pair of human legs and a trip to the human world. Also, she has three days to secure true love’s kiss. If she does not, she would be enslaved to Ursula forever.

Ariel moves to Eric’s castle smoothly, followed by her friends - Scuttle (voiced by Awkwafina), the dim-witted northern gannet, and the loyal crab Sebastian (voiced by Daveed Diggs), who guide and coax her to land a kiss, during her stay in the castle. 

What keeps you glued to the screen is the vast animated land and seascapes that capture Ariel and Eric’s life. Director Marshall and his team have put considerable effort into capturing its cinematic universe. The songs too are mellifluous and beautifully choreographed. 

The scene at the marketplace with a carnival-like atmosphere is appealing but it ends abruptly.

Halle Bailey as Ariel, is energetic and expressive but not charming. Her visage lacks the softness of naivety and the sweetness of a teenage girl.

Jonah Hauer-King is charming as the confused prince in love.  Javier Bardem and Melissa McCarthy provide gravitas to the characters they portray.

Daveed Diggs brings a reliable flow of humour to the irascible crustacean charged with protecting Ariel. His rendition of ‘Under the Sea’ with Latino beats and a delightful montage of the underwater universe is enchanting.

Overall, this film is a perfect escape to fantasy land.

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