The Little Mermaid: Sink or Swim?

This year's remake finds its feet, but not without some floundering

Ariel (Halle Bailey) dreams of life on land in Disney's live-action remake of "The Little Mermaid." [Courtesy photo | Disney. © 2023 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved]

To celebrate 100 years of the  brand, Disney has remade the classic story of "The Little Mermaid" into a live action film for everyone to enjoy. Does it stick the landing on its two feet, or does it drown like the other Disney remakes? 

The results may vary for people, but in my opinion, it sticks the landing ... with several flaws to come along with it. 

"The Little Mermaid" is the story of a rebellious teenage mermaid named Ariel. She begs her father, King Triton, about exploring the surface world; and he declines by destroying everything she has related to the surface world. After receiving her punishment, Ariel searches for a mysterious sea witch named Ursula. She was rumored to hold a magical spell that can allow Ariel to explore the surface world on her own. 

I actually enjoyed this movie! 

Halle Bailey, known for her musical career, is great as Ariel, especially when she’s singing. All of Ariel's numbers sound great, but the design of her tail is way too complicated and strays almost too far from the design in the animated movie.  

I also enjoyed Jonah Hauer-King’s ("A Dog's Way Home") Prince Eric. King brings a lot of charm and wit to the character, while also making him a swashbuckling version of Indiana Jones as he crosses several bodies of water and recovers artifacts from shipwrecks. Seeing his antique collection and watching he and Ariel bonding over their love for trinkets was a great, heartfelt scene and made me want to see King as the next Superman! He’s perfect for the role.  

Daveed Digs ("Hamilton") as Sebastian was a great comedy relief, and I enjoyed Javier Bardem ("Skyfall") as Triton. 

But the true standout is Melissa McCarthy ("Bridesmaids") as Ursula. What an amazing performance! McCarthy brings her endgame when she belts out "Poor Unfortunate Souls," and her final god form at the end of the movie was stunning. It reminded me a lot of the "Cthulhu Mythos" and how mythical beings work in those stories. 

"Kiss the Girl" from the live-action remake of "The Little Mermaid." Clip courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures via EPK.TV.

As for my negatives, a lot of the CGI character models were unpleasant to look at. Flounder looks like a sleep paralysis demon, as he stares with soulless eyes throughout the movie. 

"The Scuttle Rap" was wretched and a blemish on this movie. Awkwafina, who voices Scuttle, tried her best with what she was given, but ended up sounding terrible, and not in the bad-funny way. More like the way that makes you want to tear out your ears and flush them down the toilet. 

Some of the backgrounds in the movie looked phoned in and clearly looked like a green screen. At least the song "Under The Sea" has this great, cinematic experience where every shot looks like a painting I could hang on my wall. It was probably my favorite sequence of the movie!

Overall, I would say it’s the best Disney remake to come out so far, and I am giving it a solid 8/10.

Carter Salley is a broadcast & cinematic arts major and host of the Central Michigan Life podcast "Raving Geeks." For more movie reviews, check out his Instagram page @revantrooper66.