Creatively, and removing some exception that strays far enough from the original like ‘The Jungle Book’, Disney’s live-action remakes are a wasteland. It is repetition for repetition’s sake, almost more like a simple exercise in style than as a film with its own stem. It was seen in ‘The Lion King’, which was literally the same but with much less expressiveness and emotion, in ‘Beauty and the Beast’, where all the magic was lost, and now in ‘The Little Mermaid’, which achieves the most difficult (find an Ariel to match) but fail at the simplest (get some skins that make it out of the Uncanny Valley).
you live happily being a mermaid
What do we look for in a remake of a movie that we have seen a thousand times and lives in our head scene by scene and song by song? Do we want something that is absolutely the same, as if it were a carbon copy, or we look for the vision that a new director can bring to the story we know so well? ‘The Little Mermaid’ tries to combine the new with the usual, delving into the personality of Prince Eric with success and bringing to the fore some new songs that, no matter how much Lin-Manuel Miranda is behind, they feel like stretched gum.
If what you want is to listen to the usual songs, you are in luck: Halle Bailey, beyond the stupid controversy of the day, is the perfect Ariel. His voice fills the screen and removes any doubt at a stroke from the first chords of ‘Part of him’. She is a fabulous singer who knows how to capture the nuances of history on the fly: Without her, ‘The Little Mermaid’ would have no reason to exist. She is a true wonder and a brutal casting success by Disney.
The problem is that it’s Surrounded by CGI creatures making the same mistake as ‘The Lion King’: They try to be realistic. Sebastian’s design introduces a bit of cartoon into the crab’s design taking it straight to Eerie Valley and Scuttle (a wonderful Awkwafina who is getting little credit for it) is the closest thing to a cartoon character we’re going to see. in a remake of this style, but Flounder sinks the CGI into each of his sequences. For some reason, Rob Marshall has decided not to give any kind of expressiveness to Ariel’s friend and leave him as a sickly looking fish. It’s a shame, because it doesn’t help us create that seabed that is more colorful than expected (be careful at the end of ‘Under the Sea’, in which, for once, they nail the mimicry) but, at the same time, tremendously lonely.
Listen to the song, now kiss her
To Caesar what belongs to Caesar: although the film has more shadows than lights, it is an absolute success to give personality to prince eric in order to better understand a character that was flat in the original tape. It is also true that they have not eaten their heads too much and her story simply mimics Ariel’s, emphasizing that both are destined for love because their circumstances are similar. It’s childish and obvious, but it works. But if they have been able to find three-dimensionality in the characters, why are there other moments in the film where it is completely lost?
I think of ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls’, the version that Melissa McCarthy more or less manages to pull off as a Úrsula whose personality is not fully defined throughout the film. In one of the most incomprehensible changes, Ariel realizes the evil of the one with whom she is about to make a deal (especially since the film accentuates it even more than in the animation to an almost self-parody point) and he walks away, but despite everything ends up falling into his clutches half a minute later. Somehow you have to fill over 50 minutes of new materialNo?
Disney has to make a serious reflection on the duration of this type of product: if in 1989 it barely reached an hour and a half, there must be a real justification for extending up to two hours and a quarter. The prince’s story is very good, yes, but the rest of the additions don’t quite work (beyond a wonderful ‘Hamilton’-style rap between Sebastian and Scuttle). The songs become tasteless, the lengthy plots, the new empty characters and everything feels like an excuse to fill minutes without a real reason behind it. In the end, once the nostalgia is satisfied, it will be you who wants to end up under the sea.
poor souls in disgrace
Obviously, the entire movie is a CGI fest. No one should be taken by surprise, of course, you can’t ask for naturalism from the remake of ‘The Little Mermaid’, but sometimes it’s too obvious that the actors are trying to do a good job speaking to a green screen or trying to look magnificent when really everything is. What they can do is splash around to stay afloat. Javier Bardem is the best example of this: tries to infer personality to King Triton but the script isn’t good enough to make this a legendary performance.
‘The Little Mermaid’ will satisfy the public that demands a shot of nostalgia fascinated by YouTube videos where amateurs redo Disney scenes shot by shot, but his interest remains there, in simple cinematographic mnemonics. Yes, the usual musical numbers shine with their own light, but there is nothing beyond that. It is the magic of Disney reduced to songs and scenes that we already know with a seasoning of novelty which at times is appreciated and at times is more annoying than anything else. But the question we should ask ourselves is: as Disney raises its remakes, is this the maximum it can reach? How far can you capitalize on nostalgia?
Halle Bailey will have to go to a chiropractor after the premiere, because she alone carries the entire movie on her back. And it is that Rob Marshall, the director, who has already shown himself capable of turning magic into tasteless pasta in ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ and ‘Into the woods’, stays in the middle between creating your own version and cannibalizing the previous one.
The result is cold and clumsy, but at the same time with the security of being on familiar ground all the time with an Ariel that shines on her own but can’t do miracles with the CGI festival, new mediocre songs and ultra-realistic designs with which this new remake disappoints again. Of course: it depends a lot on your vision regarding these films, from which we all already know what to expect. If you enjoyed ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘Aladdin’ it is very unlikely that you will not leave with a smile from ear to ear and humming “If you don’t want to risk it, you’ll stay under the sea”, a song line that at the same time is the perfect summary of all that this little mermaid can give of herself.