Review: The Little Mermaid – fishy fairy tale or fairly fishy tail?

The Little Mermaid

Rating: 8 out of 10.
The Little Mermaid

Rating: 8 out of 10.

With underwater special effects that rival Avatar: The Way of Water, the new The Little Mermaid is a fun, eye-popping, cool, musical fantasy-adventure that is a perfect way to spend a hot summer afternoon. (And it makes me wonder if a mermaid is what caused Popeye’s eye condition… but I digress.)

I’ve never seen the original Disney animated film (1989), nor The Little Mermaid TV-series (1992-94), nor have I read the classic Hans Christian Andersen story (1837) that the new “live action” film is based on. I’m pretty certain there is as much animation going on here as in the original cartoon movie – maybe more; it’s just of a different type. Prove me wrong.

The story involves a cute, curious and impetuous young mermaid, Ariel (Halle Bailey), who saves a curious young prince (Jonah Hauer-King) from drowning, and the two become infatuated with each other. It’s the ultimate boy meets girl from the wrong side of the tracks situation (or literal “fish out of water” scenario, as it were.)

But being half-fish isn’t Ariel’s only issue. She also has to deal with a controlling King Triton (Neptune type) father (Javier Bardem) who is unwilling to let his daughter grow up and see men of another species. There’s also the nefarious mutant sea-witch, Ursula (Melissa McCarthy), who is jealous of the pretty mer-woman.

McCarthy steals the show as the villain and her performance and character are easily my favorite part of the film. Ursula’s transformation into a malevolent sea storm is incredible and she’s the best “love to hate” Disney baddie in ages.

Lin-Manuel Miranda allegedly brings some new music to this movie, but (again) I couldn’t tell you what as I’m not familiar with the original score or soundtrack. I can say there are fun singing and dancing sea creatures and the music was enjoyable and fitting.

One oddity I noticed is that the “under the sea” people’s hair seems dryer when they are underwater than when they are on the surface. Is this normal? Just mer-curious. Nevertheless, the underwater sequences are fantastic.

As mentioned, I can’t compare this film to the original, but I found it fun, entertaining and amazing on a cinematic technical level… but, this movie wasn’t made for me, it’s for young girls who are coming of mer-age and can relate to being an outcast or different in some way, and I think it succeeds well on that level as well.

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About the author

Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.