When it was announced in 2019 that Halle Bailey (of the Chloe x Halle singing duo) had been cast as the little mermaid in the live-action remake of the 1989 Disney classic, it caused a lot of furore because the representation of the eponymous character was originally a white character with red hair. This public anger must have settled into a sense of futility for the dissenters when the project forged ahead with the announcement of a release date in 2021. This development sparked reactions as talks of ‘erasure’ and ‘replacement’ trailed the remake, with hashtags like #NotMyAriel and adult men (who should be worried about more pertinent issues) bawling their eyes in front of cameras. The premiere finally came upon us and one cannot help but wonder, “Why was there so much ado about a detail so inconsequential?”
Originally adapted from a fairytale by Hans Christain Andersen, the millennials who watched the animation might find the live-action less meaningful and more whimsical and bland, but it is still a warm-hearted story that should be popular with the preteen kids. Ariel (Halle Bailey) is a princess of the underwater kingdom and the last daughter of King Triton (Javier Bardem). Obsessed with the world above her father’s kingdom, she keeps a collection of human-made artefacts she salvages from shipwrecks. Although sternly ordered by her father never to go to the surface, she regularly dreams of leaving the watery depths for the human world. Attracted by fireworks from a cruising ship and unable to resist the temptation, she breaches the surface to take a closer look at the humans. She spots Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) and is immediately infatuated, the infatuation is reciprocated when she saves him from drowning. Now Ariel is more convinced to go to the world of humans. In a bid to deter her, her father destroys her collection and forbids her from leaving the ocean. Her Aunt Ursula (Melisa McCarthy), the sea witch, takes advantage of her heartbreak and offers to change her into a human in return for her voice and she has to get a true love’s kiss from Eric in three days to remain human, but Ursula does not play fair and the whole ocean kingdom is put in jeopardy.
The live-action remake is almost an hour longer than the original and has three more songs, however, the bravest thing done in the production seems to be casting a Black American for the lead role. It’s good to stay true to the material but this time, it seems to abound from some fear of ruining something people already liked. The live-action lacks originality (as expected)—a copy and paste of the animation without the creatively animated scenery. The animated version has more depth (pun intended) while the ‘live action’ is mostly CGI. In this remake, the Prince’s story gets more attention than Ariel’s and she seems to care more about how ‘good’ the humans could be than understanding her family’s inhibitions due to the killing of their Queen by the humans.
In all, Halle Bailey clears any doubts about her casting with a spirited performance enhanced by a strong supporting cast. Melissa McCarthy playing Ursula is able to add magic to the witch’s character, adding the zest the film needed, as the villain of the story. While the story seems like a self-elevating narrative for humankind, with the several arguments made for ‘not all humans’, and not being as compelling as the originals—text and animation— it is still an enjoyable good-natured story.
The Little Mermaid is showing in cinemas.
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- Scuttle eats fish but won’t eat Flounder for some reason. Other fish lives don’t matter?
- Ariel has no friends?
- How are the books not destroyed underwater?
- Omo alaigboran.
- The shot transitions are really corny, but it’s something kids will appreciate.
- Down with the Matriarchy?