Just Enjoy 'The Little Mermaid.' Damn, Y'all.
Can we all not think piece it to death? Thx.
I don’t exactly feel like a Disney nerd but here are the facts — I do have a Magic Key Pass (the priciest tier) and I crawled out of my bed at 11pm to see Halle Bailey in The Little Mermaid the Thursday before it officially released for the pure satisfaction of being first. Do with that what you will.
Disney princesses were a big part of my childhood, namely Belle, Ariel, and Jasmine. These were the big three in the late ‘80s when Disney started reimagining princesses as independent thinkers (-ish) and juuust disobedient enough to prove a point. These were a far cry from Snow White and Cinderella, this class wanted to break rules and choose their own princes and street rats to wed.
By all accounts I’d say the live action take on The Little Mermaid was a win and I'm practically begging the internet to just watch and enjoy and not dissect. It's a musical, its for kids, its the summertime. Just take it for what it is.
Unlike the original, but very much in-line with the folk tales, the new film gives Ursula more backstory and confirms her as King Triton’s sister. (I really wanted more story for Ursula, but I guess that would have been counterproductive since she does meet her demise at the end and sympathizing with her would make that more difficult for young audiences to swallow.)
Ariel gets more info on Prince Eric from the start. The forlorn royal just so happens to be spilling his guts on being adopted (a new development), and not suited for princehood while Ariel is spying on the side of the boat. She also sees him risk his life to save his dog, all of which supports why she loves him immediately and was so intent on saving him from drowning. (Ordinarily, I'd think that love-at-first-sight thing was kind of cringe in a modern lens, but a full film explaining the dynamics of love and relationships would be even weirder for youth, so let's just go with it.)
Part of Your World is referred to as Ariel’s “Siren song” and has magical powers, hence why Eric survived the drowning when she sang to him on the shore. Doesn’t really do anything for the plot, but I thought it was a nice choice.
In the original film the merfolk were anti-human because they were hunters and “barbarians,” in the newer story both sides hate each other. Eric is the prince of a small seemingly Carribean island that has suffered many shipwrecks and assumes the “sea gods” hate them. The Queen (who is Black, yay!) forbids Eric from exploring the oceans in fear that he will be the next casualty as the sea fights to reclaim the island.
Also, Eric gets his own ballad. Not the best, very this vocally, but I’d imagine adding a new song to a classic like this isn’t easy. Remember when they gave Princess Jasmine a song in the live action Aladdin. Boy, oh boy.
A weird element is introduced into the curse Ursula puts on Ariel, not only does she have to get the prince to kiss her but somehow Ursula added a twist where Ariel won’t even remember thats what she needs to do. I’m not really sure why that was thrown in.
Remember when it was announced that the film would change the lyrics to “Kiss the Girl” to imply consent and everyone freaked out? Well, the change was minor and only one line. In one of the verses Sebastian says, “Use your words and ask her.” Daveed Diggs made it sound Carribean and cool, it was barely noticeable and no big deal. And that’s coming from someone who has watched and sang these songs for 20 years.
As an adult, the movie seems more about the dynamic between Ariel and her father than a love story between her and Eric. King Triton actually apologizes for not hearing her point of view on humans saying, “I’m sorry you had to lose your voice to be heard.” Cartoon king would never. The movie also makes it seem like Ariel can go back and forth from human to mermaid, something we see in The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea.
If I had to make a few critiques, I'd say it could have been funnier. Some things are lost without 2D animation, but there were some... quiet moments that could have used punching up. Melissa McCarthy did the Ursula character justice, but the eye makeup left room for improvement. With the original animation being based off legendary drag queen Divine, the eyeshadow could have been a bit draggier and sculpted as opposed to just "evil."
None of the above affects my stellar rating for 'The Little Mermaid,' Halle Bailey's acting and vocal performances were impressive and brought some depth to what is, after all still a kids' movie.