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Release Date: 05/26/23 [Cinemas]
Genre: Adventure. Family.

Studio: Walt Disney Studios

"A young mermaid makes a deal with a sea witch to trade her beautiful voice for human legs so she can discover the world above water and impress a prince." 


It feels cliché to dunk on another installment of Disney’s ongoing live-action remaking endeavors, but I don’t think many can deny that Disney does it to themselves. For starters, they advertise installments like these as live-action remakes when, in reality, it’s chock-full of photo-realistic animation and environments to the point it’s practically just as “live-action” as the original Tron from 1982. And as most artists and art critics know, just because a work of art is more realistic, it doesn’t mean it’s better.


The Little Mermaid’s transition to “live-action” is a visual spectacle (outside of a couple locations that seem to bear the result of over-reliance on the Volume) with immersive sound design, but it’s a film that’s all plot and no story. There’s no sense of character and motivation to really grasp onto and carry you from scene to scene and instead each scene that directly adapts the animated version feel hollow and checklisted despite their beautiful flair. There are a couple original scenes and songs integrated along the way that feel much more interesting than the main story at play, making it seem like the film is The Little Mermaid out of obligation when it truly wishes it could be its own original film.


Part of the issue that kept me from being able to emotionally connect with the characters wasn’t the performances, but rather the writing and direction. Halle Bailey’s Ariel has a natural charisma that makes her screen presence known, Jonah Hauer-King’s Prince Eric is fairly good too, and Melissa McCarthy steals the show as Ursula by the sheer willpower of perfect casting and understanding the assignment. With these actors having the raw power needed to carry scenes of their own on something this scale, they are doing so with writing that doesn’t build character and direction that doesn’t guide the performance to have a stronger gravity to pull the audience in.


The Little Mermaid feels more of an accidental critique of the animated film, with its weaknesses fully on display despite its best efforts. It’s not the worst of the live-action remakes, and those who tend to be nostalgia-blinded may still have a good time, but this isn’t a remake that takes the effort needed to craft The Little Mermaid into the best it can be.

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