Disney’s live-action adaptation of “The Little Mermaid” — a retelling of both Hans Christian Andersen’s 1845 fairytale and the beloved cartoon from 1989 — makes a splash at Coronado’s Village Theatre. With modern adaptations from lyric omissions to deepening characters’ backstories, the new “Little Mermaid” pays homage to its predecessors while creating its own waves of wonder.
As the tale goes, adventurous teen Ariel is fascinated by life on land, but her overbearing father King Triton wants her nowhere near the ocean’s surface, believing humans to be predatory and destructive. As Ariel continues to collect treasures from shipwrecks and dream of a world unknown to her, her endearing sea creature sidekicks Flounder, Sebastian, and Scuttle try to convince her that life “Under the Sea” is better than one above, anyway. But this not-so-little mermaid is headstrong: one evening, in defiance of her father, she witnesses a shipwreck on the surface and feels called to save the life of a handsome prince. In hopes of widening her father’s perspective on humanity — and, of course, finding her one true love — Ariel is tricked into making a deal with an evil sea witch, Ursula. In exchange for her alluring voice, Ariel is granted three days on land to make Prince Eric fall in love with her or else risk an imprisoned life underwater with Ursula.
Alongside a stellar cast of sea creatures and land dwellers, it is Halle Bailey (Ariel) and Jonah Hauer-King (Prince Eric) who keep the film afloat. Both actors are infectiously charming from their first seconds onscreen and their solo numbers — the classic, “Part of Your World” and the new, “Wild Uncharted Waters,” respectively — give perspective into why their blossoming relationship works in this modern retelling. The 135-minute film explores both of their longings for independence and self-discovery more profoundly, allowing for a deeper emotional connection between the two. As moviegoer Amanda Gonzales put it, “Prince Eric didn’t have much of a personality of his own [in the cartoon], so it’s fun to see a version of the character that makes you feel more invested. When Ariel can’t speak, he makes it clear what she wants to say. It gives their love story more depth.”
While the film is enchanting and colorful overall, as with many Disney live-action remakes, there are a few new additions that don’t quite hit the mark. An ominous quote from Andersen’s original tale — “But a mermaid has no tears, and therefore she suffers more” — opens the film, but falls flat alongside the largely-cheery script. The removal of lyrics that, in the 1989 film, convinced Ariel to fall victim to Ursula’s tricks in “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” and the addition of “The Scuttlebutt” rap could have been avoided. And too, the CGI leaves something to be desired, as King Triton’s Seven Daughters seem more sexualized than serious when well-intentionally talking about shipwrecks and looting humans polluting the seas.
In the end, the vibrant actors in the live-action “Little Mermaid” make the remake worth the popcorn both for nostalgia’s sake and for fans discovering the story for the first time. There is an excitement to watching the famous boat scene with Ariel and Eric, and escaping into the pleasant, fictional island where the film takes place. Audiences will have “Kiss the Girl” stuck in their head until the next Coral Moon.
Movie Times: Click Here
Genre: Fantasy, Musical
Director: Rob Marshall
Actors: Halle Bailey, Jonah Hauer-King, Melissa McCarthy, Javier Bardem, Daveed Diggs, Jacob Tremblay & Awkwafina
Run Time: 2 hrs & 15 min
Rating: PG for Action/Peril & Some Scary Images