“The Little Mermaid” Movie Review: Disney Shoulda Just Left This New Remake Under The Sea

by Shaye Wyllie
the little mermaid live action movie review

Look … Disney is notoriously known for taking a damn good animation movie, and turning it into a soul-sucking, wreck of a live-action tale. (Mulan is proof of that.) And I’m not sure what the obsession is with live-action remakes lately, especially when they do nothing for us, aside from destroy our nostalgia. But here we are once again, with another remake that seems to fall short of its long-lived glory.

Now I’m no fish whisperer, and I don’t long to live under the sea, or be a part of a different world … unless you’re sending me off to Hillman College to be a part of one of the best Black sitcoms in the world.

So maybe my lack of love and empathy for Ariel’s sob story is the main reason I just can’t get jiggy with this teenage mermaid versus sea witch tale. However, I am a single mom, and I do believe in redemption, and that one can turn a frown upside down — and that’s what I originally hoped “The Little Mermaid” live-action movie would do, for me at least. So I am incredibly sad to say that this one didn’t quite make the cut. But, I am shocked to see that I’m not the only one who thinks this remake is a tad underwhelming.

Full “The Little Mermaid” Live Action Review

the little mermaid live action movie poster

Before I tell you all the little details that annoyed my poor unfortunate soul in “The Little Mermaid” live-action film, you should know that …

I don’t particularly like “The Little Mermaid” story. I even made sure to rewatch it right before writing this review, so I could jog my memory as to why I don’t like it. Now some will say (and have said) that this “discredits” my review of “The Little Mermaid” live-action film because I’m already “biased” but I promise you I didn’t step foot into the theater already annoyed, with the idea that I would hate this.

Actually, I went into this remake really hopeful after seeing the trailer in IMAX a few days prior to seeing the film on screen. And maybe, just maybe, the fact that I didn’t see the entire film in IMAX as well is what hurt this review? But I guess we’ll see in a few days after I take my daughter to see it. I’ll be sure to come back and update you all on the difference.

However, upon rewatch, the original story felt almost silly, because my oh my was Ariel a thirsty b*xch.

Sis hadn’t known Prince Eric for more than 5 damn minutes before she went off screaming to the hills (and her damn daddy) that she was in love! And to be honest, it’s no wonder I’m still single. Men on dating apps seem to give off the same sea-sick vibes as Ariel these days, often calling me “babe” or “love” and wanting to “go on dates” after 5 mins of “conversation”. Like please, can I get to know you first?! What if I’m a killer? Do I not look like I can ‘seduce and scheme’ you out yo draws and whatever coins are left in your pocket? Clearly not, because you’re not the least bit worried I see. Just like silly little know-it-all Ariel who has fallen in love with a human, despite them being the very reason her own mother died?

Yeah … that storyline still feels a little sus. I mean, in what world does a 16-year-old mermaid find out that her mother was killed by humans, and still disregards her fathers’ warnings? If anything you’d think she’d be angry, or scared, and it should have been Eric who had first fallen in love and tried to convince her to stay? But hey I’m no writer, so by all means, let’s ignore this plot hole and continue. Because …

Even though the new story makes more sense now, “The Little Mermaid” live-action remake still lacks emotional appeal.

(L-R): Scuttle (voiced by Awkwafina), Flounder (voiced by Jacob Tremblay), and Halle Bailey as Ariel in Disney’s live-action THE LITTLE MERMAID. Photo courtesy of Disney. © 2023 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

A few have mentioned on Twitter already that Prince Eric finally has a personality of his own. (He also has a song … which, um, we’ll get into in a bit.) And our beloved Halle Bailey, plays an Ariel, with a little bit more common sense than her predecessor. Thank God, because I mean … she is Black. Soooo …. yeah. However, even though Ariel is no longer trading in her angelic voice, tail, and caring family for some legs just so she can snuggle up with some man she literally just met — as she now has a new sense of purpose.

Her longing to explore new lands and new seas doesn’t quite convince me she should be free to do as she pleases.

Can sis go to Mermaid College first? Like, are we forgetting she’s 16? And sure that’s “of age” in some countries … but not in my house!

Jokes aside — the film, the story, nor the acting, do us any favors when trying to sell us on the idea that a 16-year-old mermaid should be allowed to leave home to explore the unknown world, just because that’s what she wants to do. And since no emotions are evoked, in this muddy gray and dark shadows of a film, to make me feel what Ariel’s feeling as she tries to set free from her “big bad daddy”, who’s really just a caring, protective father, as he’s still a bit traumatized from his wife’s death. I don’t feel sorry for her.

Thus, I just don’t care whether or not she walks on land or swims under the sea. And that’s really the whole point of this film.

And at first, I wondered if my lack of feelings was due to Halle’s acting, as there were moments where I could feel her acting, as opposed to her just singing and living in this story.

But then I remembered that she’s actually a really good actor. I loved her in “Grown-ish“. And I just watched her in the new trailer for “The Color Purple”, which ironically evoked more emotions out of me, than the entire Little Mermaid film, so it can’t be her. Maybe it’s the direction of the film? Who freaking knows. But something feels off.

If it wasn’t the directing, then most definitely the writing — because how the hell did they remake this more dark and stormy, and then sis gave her back her voice so damn easy?! What kind of conflict was this? The villain wasn’t villaining enough for me and I just can’t. Ariel barely had to put up a struggle! Not a scuffle, catfight, or brawl in sight! Nada. Sis snatched her chain like Rashad did New New in ATL, and then that was it. I can’t.

As a Black female critic, I feel like I should love “The Little Mermaid” remake, but I just don’t … and yes, that’s bothering me!

Halle Bailey as Ariel in Disney’s live-action THE LITTLE MERMAID, directed by Rob Marshall. Photo by Giles Keyte. © 2021 Disney Enterprises Inc. All Rights Reserved.

I mean, we finally have a Black mermaid, another Black Disney princess!! And yet that still wasn’t enough to make me leave the theater smiling from ear to ear? Yes, Halle sang well! But we all know she can sing! However, her voice can’t carry the whole damn movie.

Hopefully, it’ll feel different when I watch this with my daughter in a few days. But that’s really just wishful thinking for me. At this point it just feels like Disney is making shit just to make shit … and it shows.

Disney shoulda just left this “The Little Mermaid” remake under the sea, and here’s why:

  • The film itself color-wise is duller (and dustier) than before. I’ve seen color, even in dark scenarios, and this wasn’t it. It felt cold and gray, despite the original feeling colorful and warm?
  • Ariel is dying to go on land and be with this white boy but the mermen in the sea foine as hell … and I’m confuzzled. But why sis?
  • Sebastian still isn’t actually Caribbean, just another actor faking the funk, even though Daveed does quite a good job entertaining us! So I guess his ‘research’ of Trinidad paid off? But next time let’s just give the role to an actual Caribbean comedian Mo Gilligan was right there!
  • Awkwafina is annoying AF as always, (I literally hate the sound of her voice) and thus Scuttle is now unbearably annoying.
  • Why did Prince Eric need a song? Literally, just stand there and be cute, please. There is no reason for you to be singing!
  • Outside of ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls’ Melissa’s acting as a villain was subpar. And this one makes me super sad because had she gave what she gave in that song, throughout the entire movie, I would have loved her!
  • WTF was that rap??! Lin, please explain yourself! Were you tired? Did you write that at the very last minute? And Awkwafina? Rapping?! After knowing how problematic her Blaccent is … now y’all got her rapping? Ugh!
  • Ariel never made me feel anything! Like at all! And when I did feel something, I was cringing because the cadence of her pronouncing certain words while singing was hella distracting for me! Especially in the songs which felt like she was forcing the emotions?

Overall “The Little Mermaid” isn’t my favorite Disney animated princess movie, so no loss no gain here for moi.

And if I’m being all the way honest I’ve never really cared about the princesses ever! I’m more of a villain and snarky sidekick girl. I’ve always been the odd one out and related to the villains more or laughed at the sarcasm of the sidekicks, as opposed to swooning over the love story of a princess. So that’s usually why I end up watching these princess movies.

If we ever got a movie dedicated to Ursula’s backstory I’d be way more interested and invested for sure!

However, even without liking the princesses, Disney animated films always felt fun regardless of whether I liked the story or not. They were colorful and the songs were upbeat and enjoyable. I mean we still sing a lot of the songs from the 90s today and there’s a reason for that! They’re memorable! These new songs — with the exception of one, that seems to be growing on me — won’t be remembered as much and that’s a significant factor in whether kids rewatch family movies, or not! Look at the newer films — Encanto, Vivo, (which all were written by Lin as well), and even Turning Red. The kids watched those over and over and sang right along with every song. Hell, I sang along with every song!

“The Little Mermaid” live-action remake just isn’t as fun!

I am forever grateful that I still liked Sebastian’s character, and that Daveed did a great job with him. Because I would have died if I hadn’t liked him! Sebastian is my favorite character, next to Ursula, and then of course cute little Flounder. And I am happy they made Ariel a Black girl with a sense of curiosity and wonder, and not just an overwhelming urge to have sex with the first guy that smiles at her.

But unfortunately, none of those make up for the lack of emotions felt throughout this teenage “woe is me” tale, so it’s a “no for me”. Although, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch this one on the big screen, because you should. It’s not a terrible film. It just wasn’t as great as I was hoping it would be. So definitely go support Halle! Hopefully, I’ll feel different after a second watch, with my 11-year-old, on an IMAX screen. But if not, oh well.

You may also like

Leave a Comment

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More

Sharing is Caring

Help spread the word. You're awesome for doing it!