In Disney They have been betting on live-action remakes of their animated classics for many years now. It is a formula that you will like more or less -I am among the latter-, but what nobody can dispute is how well they usually work commercially, with several of them ranked among the highest grossing films in history. I don’t know if ‘The Little Mermaid’ will also get it, although the biggest surprise would be that it didn’t sweep the theaters during its run.
For my part, I didn’t have too much hope for ‘The Little Mermaid’, a feeling that worsened after seeing the new designs by Flounder and Sebastian. It also didn’t help to learn that Disney was upholding their apparent tradition of having these remakes exceed two hours in length when the animated originals rarely made it to 90 minutes. Luckily, the final result has ended up being a pleasant surprise, because it is true that It’s not quite a good movie, but it’s a pretty decent review of the story.
Lights and shadows under the sea
In general terms, ‘The Little Mermaid’ follows the same plot arc of the beloved feature film directed by John Musker and Ron Clements which served to start a new golden age of Disney animated cinema: Ariel is fascinated with humans and one day saves one of them from what would have been certain death. Falling in love with him at first sight, the young mermaid accepts a deal offered by the sea witch Ursula, but there is a catch and everything will get complicated from there.
However, it is fair to recognize that those responsible for this new version have taken care to update the story far beyond the debatable decision to retouch two of the original songs with the idea of adapting them to the sensibilities of our time. For example, Eric’s character comes out winning by far compared to the original, where he was little more than a decorative element with which Ariel fell in love. Here he is really a character with motivations and background, but beware, that does not mean that they have done a fascinating job with him.
And it is true that Jonah Hauer King It complies in the interpretive, but the character still does not have a real spark to conquer the public. In return, the best moments of the film -I am thinking mainly of the part from when Ariel becomes human and goes outside until just when Ursula interferes between them, since that is when ‘The Little Mermaid’ is closest to having the charm of the original work- have him as one of the key characters.
Yes indeed, I do not forget the great missed opportunity that ‘The Little Mermaid’ has to connect the past of its two protagonists and that would have served to give a more tragic touch to the story. I have no doubt that there was some version of the script where they had to consider doing it and that they ultimately dropped it to focus solely on how it served to bond between Eric and Ariel in terms of their interest in each other’s universe.
Besides, halle bailey It shows that he has enough dramatic range to be able to go in that direction, but when push comes to shove he prefers to play it more or less safe and that his character arc is the same as in the animated movie. And she can’t fault them for it either, as the young actress is very convincing as Ariel, especially when it comes to singing. I will not reach the level of Javier Bardem saying that she was moved only by warming up her voice, but I am clear that her signing is a great success, no matter how much a certain sector of the public is going to pay attention to only one thing about her. A detail that should also not matter.
Where things do work worse is with Úrsula, one of the great villains of Disney history who here remains in no man’s land, since Melissa McCarthy he never stops deciding on the approach he wants to give to his interpretation. It never fully unleashes itself, nor does it really impose itself from its scarier side, and the theme of fun here is conspicuous by its absence. This is one of the points in which this new ‘The Little Mermaid’ loses by a landslide compared to the original. Of course, it is not that it destroys it, but it does neutralize everything that made the original unforgettable.
Don’t expect much from the rest of the cast either. For example, Ariel’s sisters do not go beyond the anecdotal, and perhaps they function as a representation of the seven seas, but it is impossible to believe that they all have the same parents. For his part, Bardem has to deal with the most intense character and less given to showing off, I wish Flounder had been eliminated -horrible design and a totally inconsequential contribution-, but Sebastian does work much better than expected. Even his design looks more moving, but when it comes down to it, it’s the vocal work of daveed diggs (‘Hamilton’) what makes the difference.
For the rest, one thing that is noticeable is that behind the cameras is Rob Marshall, a director who had already shown himself to move like a fish in water within musical cinema with titles such as ‘Chicago’ or ‘Mary Poppins Returns’. This is essential so that ‘The Little Mermaid’ at no time feels like a flimsy update in the visual section, since Marshall manages to make the story flow -something key so that it really feels like a movie and not a mere reconstruction and that way its generous duration does not end up being uphill-, showing its best face when the musical numbers arrive. Here, again, the original was better, but there is a concern not to fall into a simple replica and take advantage of the possibilities offered by those moments. Of course, there it is true that the new songs never seduce, because there is not that spark of brilliance and it is as if Alan Menken and Lin-Manuel Miranda have built themes without wanting to get too wet.
Perhaps it is because I was afraid that it would be a disaster, but this new ‘The Little Mermaid’ has ended up being an acceptable update from the animated film from the late 80s. I am quite clear that Bailey is the one who shines the most out of the entire cast and that it is appreciated that there is someone in the direction who knows how to handle such material. Then there are some things in which it improves, but the usual thing is to stay below, the case of Úrsula being especially pronounced.
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