Film Review: The Little Mermaid (2023)

DIsney’s live-action remakes continue apace with The Little Mermaid but for little substantive reward

“I’m trying to reach out to new cultures so we don’t fall behind”

Have any of Disney’s ‘live-action’ remakes actually added value to any of these properties? I’ve never really been able to quite wrap my head around the ‘why’ of it all and with a film like The Little Mermaid with, you know, a mermaid as its main character, talking crabs and birds as sidekicks and so many underwater scenes, it will come as little surprise that this remake didn’t move me any closer to an answer.

It’s not actually that bad. Rob Marshall knows how to direct a big-budget musical, getting Lin-Manuel Miranda in on the act to add to Alan Menken’s score. He’s gathered a quality cast here – Daveed Diggs and Awkwafina are comedy gold as those sidekicks, Javier Bardem and Melissa McCarthy brings gravitas and gaudiness to warring siblings Triton and Ursula. Martina Laird and Noma Dumezweni pop up too which is nice.

At the head of the cast though is Halle Bailey, unfortunately made into a lightning rod for frothing racists because Ariel – a mermaid lest we forget – apparently has to be white. Easily talented enough to dodge the attempted culture war stuff (though it isn’t really about her talent is it now), she’s good, though solid rather than spectacular as she battles to force an undoubted charm through the CGI and characterisation.

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