The formula has been (over)used by Disney in recent years. The prolific studio is tapping into its stash of blockbuster animated films to create a new live-action adaptation. After Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King and Mulan (to name a few), it’s The Little Mermaid’s turn to come to life in cinemas.
If on the one hand we deplore the lack of originality of this approach which seems destined to reap box office receipts, on the other hand, we are surprised to rediscover with great pleasure the story of Ariel that we loved so much as a child.
From the first minutes, when we dive under the ocean among the corals and the fish, we are amazed to see mermaids “in flesh and blood”. An emotion linked to childhood memories, we can imagine.
In cinemas, however, we can bet that many young spectators will also have bright eyes at the sight of these legendary creatures, especially when they see Ariel, played by Halle Bailey.
The 23-year-old actress is amazing when it comes to upping the ante in this musical-like film. As her character dreams of emancipating herself and living on dry land alongside the man she saved from drowning, she delivers a remarkable take on Part of Your World.
In the role of the evil Ursula, Melissa McCarthy also impresses us with her talent as a singer. When she offers a Machiavellian bargain to Ariel in exchange for a human appearance, Ursula is terrifying as she sings Poor Unfortunate Souls. Because of this scene, the film is not recommended for toddlers.
If this adaptation follows the narrative thread of the 1989 film rather faithfully, there are still some interesting additions.
First, as reported in the media over the past few months, The Little Mermaid makes room for great diversity among both main and supporting characters.
The character of the young heir, discreet in the animated film, gains slightly in depth as we discover his passion for travel and adventure, notably through one of the three new songs signed by Alan Menken and Lin- Manuel Miranda.
As with any adaptation, comparison between the new film and the original is inevitable.
In this case, the use of real shots and computer-generated images makes it possible to show the beauty and immensity of the seabed.
The scenes where the sea rages are among the most beautiful in the feature film. It must be said that director Rob Marshall gained experience in this area during the filming of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
However, this desire to get closer to reality is not only good. The endearing aspect of Ariel’s two comrades, the crab Sebastian (Daveed Diggs) and the dabbling fish (Jacob Tremblay), have completely disappeared in this adaptation. Fortunately, their comic contribution remained intact. With the hatch bird (Awkwafina), they provoke laughter on more than one occasion.
Like its predecessor, the feature is good family entertainment that many die-hard fans will enjoy listening to with their offspring. One wonders, however, if it is necessary to recreate in live action all the animated films of Disney. To this question, the studios seem to answer in the affirmative since a new project is already in the works: Moana.