Disclaimer: This film review has been summarized with the assistance of an AI language model. Podcast version attached below.
In a special review collaboration, Nayan and James offer their insights on the live-action remake of The Little Mermaid. After attending an early screening in New Zealand, they share their thoughts on this adaptation, which elicits mixed emotions. While it offers some refreshing updates to the story, it also falls short in certain areas.
One of the standout aspects of the film is Hallie Bailey’s performance as Ariel. Her portrayal, particularly during the musical sequences, is captivating and showcases her incredible vocal talent. Bailey’s debut in a major feature film reveals her potential as a versatile performer who could excel in various genres. However, her acting skills still have room to grow.
Visually, The Little Mermaid presents a mixed bag. The CGI varies in quality, with some scenes looking impressive and others falling flat. Close-up shots are generally well-executed, adding depth and detail to the underwater world. However, when multiple characters are present, the flaws in the CGI become more noticeable. Sebastian the crab looks good, but the design for Flounder leaves much to be desired, lacking the expressive charm of the original character.
Pacing proves to be a challenge for the film. While it attempts to expand upon the original story, there are moments where the additional content feels unnecessary and could have been trimmed to create a more streamlined narrative. The inclusion of a scene discussing ocean pollution, although aiming to convey an important message, feels forced and disconnected from the main story. Simplifying the storytelling approach would have been beneficial.
Comparisons to the original are inevitable, and some scenes fall short in the live-action adaptation. Moments that worked well in an animated format, such as the iconic rock scene and the reveal of Ariel’s face to Prince Eric, become awkward and uncomfortable to watch in live-action. It becomes clear that these scenes haven’t aged well and are out of place in a contemporary film.
The production design is solid, but it doesn’t reach the levels of enchantment achieved by previous Disney live-action adaptations like Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast. The soundtrack, a crucial element for a movie like this, offers mostly enjoyable songs, with a few memorable moments. However, it doesn’t quite capture the magic of the original.
When it comes to the cast, Hallie Bailey shines as Ariel, delivering a remarkable performance. However, Javier Bardem’s portrayal of King Triton falls flat, lacking the necessary depth and charisma. Melissa McCarthy’s take on Ursula is decent, excelling in comedic and lighter scenes but lacking the intimidating presence that makes Ursula such an iconic villain.
The film suffers from sound editing issues, particularly during the musical numbers. The discrepancy between the actors singing in a studio and their performances on screen is noticeable and detracts from the overall experience. Additionally, the underwater scenes fail to create an authentic underwater atmosphere, feeling more like they were shot on a blue screen soundstage than a captivating underwater world.
In conclusion, The Little Mermaid (2023) is a mixed bag. While it offers some enjoyable moments, particularly through Hallie Bailey’s performance as Ariel, it falls short in certain areas. The CGI is hit or miss, pacing is uneven, and some scenes don’t translate well into live-action. The production design is solid but lacks the enchantment of previous Disney adaptations. The soundtrack is pleasant, but the sound editing issues are evident. While it’s worth a watch for fans of the original or those interested in the genre, it doesn’t reach the heights of Disney’s best live-action remakes.
Review by: Nayan & James