The Little Mermaid

Verdict: While the performances and voice work is spectacular, The Little Mermaid is let down by its visuals and the weak new tracks

Halle Bailey stars as Ariel, a mermaid fascinated by the human world, in Rob Marshall’s live-action remake of The Little Mermaid.

Disney’s 1989 animation The Little Mermaid is the latest classic to be given the live-action remake treatment.

The movie, directed by Rob Marshall, tells the story of Ariel (Halle Bailey), a mermaid who constantly breaks her father King Triton (Javier Bardem)’s rules by going up to the surface of the water. She is fascinated by humans and falls in love with Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) after she saves him from drowning.

Desperate to be with him, Ariel agrees to a dangerous deal with the sea witch Ursula (Melissa McCarthy), who turns her into a human in exchange for her voice. If Ariel and Eric share true love’s kiss within three days, she can stay a human permanently, but if they don’t, she will return back to her mermaid form and be enslaved to Ursula forever.

Bailey is perfectly cast as Ariel, with her wide-eyed innocence, curiosity and sense of wonder. She has a beautiful singing voice and her rendition of Part of Your World is the musical highlight of the film; it is note-perfect and very loyal to the original.

While she is a likeable lead, it is the supporting voice actors who bring the comedy and most entertainment value.

Daveed Diggs is laugh-out-loud hilarious as the chatty Caribbean crab Sebastian and Awkwafina is equally amusing as the gannet Scuttle. Plus, they riff off each other wonderfully.

The film’s biggest issue is its appearance – the underwater scenes are too dark and murky and it is obvious the actors didn’t actually shoot those scenes in the water. While it is visually unrealistic, it should have been as bright and colourful and magical as the opening sequence and the Under the Sea musical number.

The standout moments are the recreations of the classic songs – Part of Your World, Under the Sea, Poor Unfortunate Souls, and Kiss the Girl. They are executed well and the lyrics haven’t been updated too much.

However, the three new songs, written by Alan Menken and Lin-Manuel Miranda, are not a patch on the originals. Wild Uncharted Waters, a solo for Prince Eric, is weak and pointless, but The Scuttlebutt, a rap for Diggs and Awkwafina, is quite fun – if a little throwaway.

While the performances and voice work are spectacular, The Little Mermaid is let down by its visuals and it simply doesn’t have the same sense of magic as the original.

In cinemas from Friday 26th May.

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