The Little Mermaid Is Disney’s Best Live Action Adaptation Yet

Disney Animated Studios’ films are constantly being made into live-action remakes. The latest to join the trend is Rob Marshall’s The Little Mermaid, which has taken approximately five years to come to life.

Waiting this long to release it only proves how much heart went into this thing. The sets are massive, the song performances are incredible, and the additions actually fit the story. There is a lot to love about this film.

Eric & Ariel’s Relationship Is Deepened

There is nothing wrong with it, but it is well known that Disney animated films set high expectations when it comes to love. Usually done in the interest of time, Princesses fall in love at the drop of a hat in these movies.

That is why what Director Rob Marshall did with Prince Eric and Ariel in this version feels so much more realistic. Sure, it is still rushed a little bit, but the two take the time to build a relationship. It is a friendship first, and a love second. Eric and Ariel’s relationship is deepened in the live-action version of the story.

Giles Keyte and Halle Bailey in The Little Mermaid (2023)
Image Credit: Giles Keyte/Disney Enterprises, Inc.

They have things in common this time around. Eric is not only portrayed as an adventurer and collector himself; he is also kept behind castle doors by an overbearing parent. The two connect on a deeper level when they go exploring his island, which makes their love story feel so much more real than the animated version gave them.

Halle Bailey Is A Star

Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that Halle Bailey can sing. She is extremely talented and she proves that the very first time she opens her mouth during this movie. There will not be a dry eye in the house by the time “Part Of Your World” ends.

But on top of that, she is a great actress as well. She perfectly embodies Ariel. To be able to let the audience in and deliver a performance that allows us to see exactly how she is feeling and what she is thinking, without ever saying a word, should be applauded.

When she does get to speak, it only heightens her performance. Little girls, and boys, everywhere will be looking up to her. And I can’t think of another actress more worthy than her.

The CGI Is Hit Or Miss

Easily the biggest complaint about the 2023 version of The Little Mermaid is going to be the CGI. Putting the bizarre look of Flounder aside, nearly every underwater scene looks off.

We have been spoiled by Avatar: The Way of the Water and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and their ability to seamlessly pull off these types of scenes. Not to mention the fact that there is a lot more underwater work in The Little Mermaid than either of these titles.

Luckily, it doesn’t take long before viewers will more or less forget about the CGI snafus that appear here and there, which is largely in part due to the large scale sets and phenomenal performances.

That is until the third act when THAT scene comes up (if you know the original, you know exactly what I am talking about). At least they tend to know it wasn’t pulled as well as they had hoped it would be, and the camera tends to avoid it as best as it can.

Brand New Song Sequences & Other Updates

Besides the evolution of Prince Eric and Ariel’s relationship in this version, there are many more additions to the film. It went from an eighty minute long movie to one that clocks in at over two hours, so surely fans knew there were going to be some new things happening.

There are three new songs – two of which are great, and one that is forgettable. Unfortunately, the forgettable one belongs to Ariel. I already raved about Halle Bailey, and that girl has some pipes on her, but this song doesn’t really find its footing in the film.

Giles Keyte and Halle Bailey in The Little Mermaid (2023)
Image Credit: Giles Keyte/Disney Enterprises, Inc.

Ariel sings it when she first comes to the island with her legs. This means that she, of course, cannot talk. So she is singing it in her head and we don’t get to see her actually perform it (not really anyways), which takes away from the power of it.

Prince Eric’s song, however, is quite the opposite. It proves that Jonah Hauer-King can hold his own against Halle. The song tells us how he is feeling in that moment and trust me when I tell you that he makes the audience feel it too.

Besides this great addition, the animals get a song. This might seem weird but Awkwafina and Daveed Diggs rapping is the team-up that you never knew you needed, and that you will never forget. Easily the best of the new songs, this one will be on repeat for fans of all ages once the soundtrack drops.

Melissa McCarthy is Villainous

Ursula is my favorite Disney villain and Melissa McCarthy had some big tentacles to fill. And I am just as shocked as you when I say she did just that. Not only does she deliver a stellar yet terrifying performance, her rendition of “Poor Unfortunate Souls” is sure to send chills down everyone’s backs.

Melissa McCarthy in The Little Mermaid (2023)
Image Credit: Walt Disney Pictures.

It is no surprise that there are stories of young viewers that were at the Hollywood premiere that were scared to meet Melissa because of how fantastically scary she is as Ursula.

Overall Thoughts

The Little Mermaid is the best of Disney’s live-action adaptations yet. You might not think that is saying a lot but here’s the thing, it isn’t even close. These have been hit or miss, but this time, it really delivers.

The stellar cast breathes a new life into these well-known characters that deepens and expands the story in a way that I never thought was possible. Yes, it has its issues, but they are so few and far between that the outcome is pure magic.

The Little Mermaid splashes into theaters everywhere on May 26th.

Rating: 8/10 SPECS

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This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Tessa Smith owns and is a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved Film and TV Critic and a huge geek. Tessa has been in the Entertainment writing business for almost ten years and is a member of several Critics associations including the Critics Choice Association and the Greater Western New York Film Critics Association. She grew up watching movies, playing video games, and reading comic books -- and still loves all of those things. She proudly lets her geek flag fly and spreads the word that there is nothing wrong with being a geek.