It’s happened. Halle Bailey’s The Little Mermaid is finally here… and oh, the feels.
I realised as I wrote this that I’m about the age that my parents were when the original The Little Mermaid came out in 1989. If you fast forward almost 2 decades later, you’d find my younger sisters and I sitting cross legged on the floor watching Flounder get chased by a shark, pretending to be mermaids or singing along to Under The Sea in the backseat of our family car.
Ariel was our girl in the Olowo-Ake house and it’s so crazy to think that Halle Bailey will be to my kids who Jodi Benson, the original voice of Ariel, was to me. (Although, if we’re real, my kids will also be watching the 1989 version.)
Going into the theatre for the live action reboot, I found that I wasn’t as nervous as I have been for other Disney remakes. For me, the worst that Disney could do was make the exact same movie, shot for shot, with a live action cast. But even that would have at least given me the chance to see the movie again. But, I am beyond pleased to report that The Little Mermaid (2023) stands on its own legs (ha) and is a beautiful retelling of the 1989 version. In my opinion, *almost* everything about it worked to make the story better. (But, sorry, I can’t get past what they did to Flounder).
This version seemed more real to me than the original animated film did in a way that the story seemed more tangible and, therefore, the stakes higher. (I audibly gasped at some points before reminding myself that I already knew what I was gasping at would happen.) There was something about the ‘land people’ that made them feel within my reach. Seeing giant Ursula in the water made me realize how awful it would be to be on the ocean and have all these things play out before my eyes. And, although I love the romance between the OG Eric and Ariel, this time I believed in their relationship. They now have something that they both love that connects them, and both bring something to this partnership that they’ve created. This a partnership that is bigger than just two of them. (So, of course I ship.)
I think part of what made the story so tangible for me was the way that Bailey plays Ariel. She has such an innocent curiosity that I believed that she was a teenage girl in a world that she didn’t understand but was excited to get to explore. I’m also a big fan of Eric (if you couldn’t already tell) because I loved that he was more active in the story than the princes that came before him. Eric’s active spirit is preserved in this version, and he gets a backstory that I think gives him more depth (and Jonah Hauer-King carries really well.) Really, the whole cast is amazing. (Although, I don’t think I need to say that too much.)
Musically, The Little Mermaid (2023) is great as well because they already had such gold from the original soundtrack. In this version, the pen of Lin-Manuel Miranda is involved, which I personally love. The new songs add more to the story and are welcome additions. (Although, I will say that the renditions of some songs that are in the original did not feel as complete for me.) That being said, the original music was already top tier, so it would have been difficult to match.
The Little Mermaid (2023) is easily my favourite live-action remake so far, mostly because it does not rely on its predecessor to be good. Everything charming and lovable about it is its own. Will I be seeing it again in cinemas? Yes.
But more than that, I’m so excited to see how it takes its place in my future, and ours, collectively.
The Little Mermaid is available in theatres on Friday, May 26th, 2023.