'The Little Mermaid' Review - Anna Cappella

‘The (original) Little Mermaid’ was my absolute favorite movie as a little kid. I very vividly remember being five years old, at home sick, and watching ‘The Little Mermaid’ (or as I called it, ‘Ariel’) with a slice of pizza toast that my mom made for me. I have rarely experienced joy like that since then.

So naturally, when ‘The Little Mermaid’ was re-released as a live-action film earlier this summer, I pulled up Google Maps to drive myself to the nearest theater in my summer internship town and sat alone in one of those theaters with the reclining chairs to see the new movie for myself.

I felt as if the movie had been re-made specifically for me. All the right details were tweaked to accommodate an audience that had not only seen the original movie, but had grown up since watching it. Ariel herself was way more rambunctious and rebellious in this version. It was clearer that Ariel’s relationship with her father, Triton, was complex and fraught with distrust — just like real relationships. Her romance with Eric was made more realistic and mature. From my memory of the cartoon movie, Ariel was really only using Eric as an excuse to become human. In this version, the audience sees both Eric and Ariel actually pining after each other after their initial meeting during the shipwreck scene. This, along with the new song they gave to Eric’s character (‘Wild Uncharted Waters’) fleshed out Eric’s character as well as the chemistry between him and Ariel much more.

I also felt like the small side characters and jokes were much less evident in this version. Scuttle, Sebastian, and Flounder — all of Ariel’s sea animal friends — were re-animated to look like real animals, with some very unsettling effects. I agree that this change was unavoidable given the context, but it was truly difficult to assign childlike characteristics to a Flounder that looked like that guy you saw on Tinder just pulled him out of the lake and is holding him up to impress you. I was happy that Sebastian looked like a real crab, though, since the original version of that character was just a red piece of rubber with claws that didn’t resemble any known sea creature.

It seems like this type of exchange happens with most all live-action versions of old Disney cartoons — some things are just better in the real world, and some things are a rude awakening. I personally like the tradeoff. I loved learning about Eric’s interest in exploring and his relationship with his mother. I loved that I got to see Ariel and Eric pursuing a life of shared interest in exploring the sea after their marriage. I loved the imagery and the costumes and all the new voices. Overall, I’d say that my viewing of the new ‘The Little Mermaid’ was not quite as joyful as my pizza toast experience, but it got pretty close.