Film Review: “The Little Mermaid” (2023)

  • Starring: Halle Bailey, Jonah Hauer-King
  • Directed by Rob Marshall
  • Rating: PG
  • Running time: 2 hrs 15 mins
  • Walt Disney
With its origins in the 1837 story of the same name by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen (1805-75), who also created “The Princess and the Pea” and “The Snow Queen” among others, the 1989 animated film “The Little Mermaid” became a classic in the Disney library. It is one of many that parents everywhere have probably seen a million times. To cash in even more money, Walt Disney in its infinite wisdom has created a live action version of this beloved musical fantasy. The magnitude of this underwhelming achievement can be summed up in one word: meh.
This overly long, uninspiring cinematic punishment has a simple premise. Ariel (Halle Bailey), the youngest of several princesses/daughters of the protective King Triton (Javier Bardem), has a fascination/obsession with the surface world. Even though her father reminds her that it was surface dwellers who killed her mother, Ariel remains undeterred to learn as much about them as possible.
Ariel’s fascination turns into infatuation when she saves Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) from drowning near his island nation. Watched from afar by the sea witch Ursula (Melissa McCarthy), who is also King Triton’s banished sister, Ariel is manipulated and tricked by her aunt who desires to possess her siren song. It is left up to Ariel’s friends – Sebastian (Daveed Diggs) the crab, Flounder (Jacob Tremblay) the fish, and Scuttle (Awkwafina) the dimwitted Northern Gannet – to make sure a romance blossoms between Ariel and Prince Eric, and thereby thwart Ursula’s schemes.
“The Little Mermaid” is one of the most uninspiring flicks in recent memory and is emblematic of Hollywood’s problem with coming up with any new or inspiring content. Just look around to see that the 23rd installment of “Fast and Furious” and the 25th of “Transformers” are coming out this year. Director Rob Marshall (“Mary Poppins Returns,” “Chicago”) has fallen into a trap of serving unoriginal content and covering with fancy special effects and pretty costumes. All that’s left now is for Walt Disney to make sequels entitled “The Littler Mermaid” and “The Littlest Mermaid.”
I would make comments about the acting performances, pacing, action, etc. but it is so dull and unwatchable that there really is no point. The only exception would be that this version of “The Little Mermaid” is probably a smidge dark for your littlest ones.
Overall, if you go to the movie theater, go watch something else. Anything else. Please.
“The Little Mermaid” receives one star out of five.

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