'The Little Mermaid' review - Savannah Milam

I must confess that I walked into the movie theater expecting what I expect with all live action adaptations of incredible animated films: the worst. However, upon leaving the theater I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. I’ve never really been a fan of live action adaptations because they don’t necessarily add anything to the original story and, more often than not, they change elements that shouldn’t be changed. I didn’t really feel this way about “The Little Mermaid,” though. I really enjoyed the added details to the story and I loved the new songs. Despite everything that I loved, there were still a few small elements that left me wanting more.

First of all, there were a few things I would’ve changed. I really did not like all the CGI. I know it’s "The Little Mermaid" and half the story takes place underwater so how else would you do that? I don’t necessarily know (aside from not doing it at all), but there was just an insane amount of CGI. It almost felt as though I was just watching a 3D animated film and not actually a live action one. The other thing I would change is the color of Halle Bailey’s hair in the film. I know that the hair and makeup team probably wanted her hair to look more like a natural redhead color, but it just blended into her skin too much for my liking. Ariel is known for her super apple-red hair, so I think in this instance it would’ve been okay if her hair looked like an unnaturally bright red color. The only other thing I would change about this film is a couple of the costumes. The main one is Ariel’s wedding dress. I was looking forward to seeing how the costume designers would recreate that classic Disney dress design, but they just used the same dress she had been using, simply in a different color. Ariel only had two costumes in the film: her mermaid tail and village exploration dress.

The first thing I loved about this film was the cast, specifically the choice to cast Halle Bailey as Ariel. First of all, her voice is incredible. She brought a new sound to Ariel, but I also felt like she stayed true to the classic voice of Jodi Benson that we all know and love. I also thought that she did a really great job of acting without talking. Ariel doesn’t speak for half of the film, but Halle still did a great job of showing Ariel’s emotions through her reactions and facial expressions. She was utilizing some techniques that would have been used in the silent film era and I would definitely say they paid off. Jonah Hauer-King, who played Prince Eric, was also incredible. He brought forth the longing for adventure that Eric had in the original film that had been overshadowed by the rest of the story. I also thought he did a great job singing the song that was written for him, “Wild Uncharted Waters.” Of course, Melissa McCarthy (Ursula), Daveed Diggs (Sebastian), Awkwafina (Scuttle), Jacob Tremblay (Flounder), and Javier Bardem (Triton) were all incredible as well.

Now onto my absolute favorite part of this remake: the music. Pairing up Alan Menken and Lin-Manuel Miranda was such a good choice. Three new songs debuted in this film and I absolutely love two of them. The first new song was a song for Prince Eric (sung by Jonah Hauer-King) called “Wild Uncharted Waters,” and it was undeniably incredible. I have had that song playing in my head for months. I even bought the sheet music for it just so I could take it apart and analyze everything about it. The lyrics, the orchestration, everything was just done so well. It fully captured how Eric felt after waking up on that beach to Ariel, only for her to disappear without him knowing who she was. The other new song that I loved was the song “For the First Time,” which was sung by Halle Bailey. It played while Ariel was just getting on land, while she was adjusting to walking and seeing the outside world for the first time. This song was also amazing. It really captured the thoughts that Ariel would have certainly had while she was seeing fire and experiencing gravity for the first time ever. “For the First Time” was the perfect way to allow the audience to see inside Ariel’s head while she was mute.

The only song that I wasn’t a huge fan of was the song “Scuttlebutt,” which was sung by Scuttle the seagull (voiced by Awkwafina). I didn’t feel like this song did anything for the story other than give Lin Manuel Miranda a chance to include a rap in yet another Disney film. This song didn’t really move the plot along in a fun or meaningful way; if anything it actually pulled me out of the story. I just don’t really think there was a strong enough reason to include it, especially when you consider that it just doesn’t hold up in comparison to the songs from the original Little Mermaid, or the strong additions of “Wild Uncharted Waters” or “For the First Time.”

I thought that "The Little Mermaid" (2023) was a pretty good adaptation. While I wouldn’t say that it convinced me that animated films should be adapted into live action films, I would definitely recommend that people should see it; or at least just listen to “Wild Uncharted Waters.”