Princess Ariel (Bailey) secretly swims to a dangerous but fascinating source of odd treasures and trinkets. Flounder (Jacob Tremblay), her tropical fish bestie, tags along to the graveyard of ships littering the ocean floor. King Triton (Javier Bardem) would be furious if he knew what they were doing. He strictly forbids any interactions with humans. They are fierce enemies who slaughter marine life and indiscriminately pollute precious resources.
On a sailing ship above, Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King), chastises his men for trying to harpoon innocent dolphins. Their fears of evil sea demons are foolish and ignorant. Grimsby (Art Malik), Eric’s loyal servant and protector, panics when he almost falls overboard. It’s time to cease exploring and return to their island home. But first the crew wants to celebrate Eric’s birthday.
The Wicked Ursula
Ariel watches Eric’s noble actions and the splendid fireworks display fit for a prince. She doesn’t realize the wicked Ursula (Melissa McCarthy), her aunt long banished, has keenly observed Ariel’s fancy for this particular human. She hatches a devious plan to trick the smitten girl, steal her mermaid song, and overthrow her hated father. Meanwhile, King Triton convenes a scheduled meeting with his daughters. Why is Ariel missing? He orders the exasperated crab Sebastian (Daveed Diggs) to find his wayward and disobedient youngest child.
The Little Mermaid isn’t too dark to see. Certain scenes realistically recreate murky ocean depths. The primary action is crystal clear and fits into the setting. Don’t expect the vivid brightness and cutting-edge definition of Avatar: The Way of Water. Ursula’s lair and the ship graveyard is meant to be foreboding. It wouldn’t make sense if they were lit like a Christmas tree. Ariel’s land endeavors are bathed in sunshine. This juxtaposes her feelings of being trapped underwater. Let’s dispel an unwarranted criticism spread from early clips of the film.
Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton, In the Heights) co-produces and writes four new songs with original composer Alan Menken. Their placement doesn’t affect hit musical numbers like “Part of Your World,” “Under the Sea,” and “Kiss the Girl.” Fans would have been apoplectic otherwise. The new tunes don’t hold a candle to Howard Ashman’s magnificent originals but aren’t awful. It’s not a case of subtraction by addition.
Halle Bailey’s Powerful and Heartfelt
Changes to an existing character and the introduction of an important new one shouldn’t be controversial. Scuttle (Awkwafina) is now a goofy female seagull that dives and communicates underwater. Noted South African theater actress Noma Dumezweni portrays Queen Selina. The storyline has her adopting Eric after he’s found as infant. If you’ve got a problem with a Black Ariel and Queen then don’t watch this movie. Race has nothing to do with their performances. It boggles the mind that prejudiced views based on a cartoon has become controversial.
Thunderous applause followed Bailey’s powerful and heartfelt “Part of Your World.” She absolutely earned the right to play Ariel. The film runs long but will keep adults and kids alike glued to the screen from its siren song spell. The Little Mermaid will be a box office tsunami.
The Little Mermaid is a production of Walt Disney Pictures, DeLuca Marshall, and Marc Platt Productions. It will have a May 26th theatrical release from Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.