It’s not Rob Marshall’s fault that Disney’s latest live-action retread doesn’t really sing. “The Little Mermaid,” a somewhat drab project with the glow of bioluminescence, suffers from the same fundamental problems. He plagued “The Lion King,” “Aladdin,” and “Beauty and the Beast.”
Halle Bailey may be an attractive presence and she has a great voice that is clearly different from Jodi Benson, but feathers, animals and photorealistic environments They don’t make Disney’s fairy tales any more appealing on their own.
The essential problem is that live-action movies have prioritized nostalgia and familiarity over compelling visual storytelling. they try to recreate the beats and takes from their animated predecessors, Ignoring the possibility that some musical sequence And the polls were engaging and vibrant because they were animated, not in spite of them.
There was a twinkling surprise in everything in the 1989 film. underwater palace. Siren Eric’s boat. Ariel’s bright red hair too. With wonderful songs and lyrics by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, it’s not hard to see why it helped spark a renaissance of Disney animation.
Anyone who’s been through Disney’s recent library of live-action would do well to approach “The Little Mermaid” with caution. Still, there’s excitement as the camera pans underwater to give us our first glimpse of mermaids, even after the somewhat ominous quote from Hans Christian Andersen that opens the film (“But a mermaid has no tears, And so much the more, he suffers much more”. ).
you can’t live without hope, But the first siren to come into focus isn’t quite as awe-inspiring as Ben Stiller’s flashback to Merman in “Zoolander.”
The technique is better, sure, but the result is roughly the same. Worse, when we spend more time with them, following Ariel’s multicultural sisters as they rally around their father King Triton (Javier Bardem), it’s hard to shake off a distinctly uncanny valley feeling. .
For all her dynamism, everything is more muted about this “Little Mermaid”. Miranda’s new songs are also weird and don’t seem to fit. Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) after Melissa McCarthy voices Ursula, maybe Ariel’s psychic anthem makes sense too—but did Scuttle really even need a song?
Speaking of scuttle, cute cartoons featuring seagulls, crabs and fish friends The aerials have been replaced with terrifyingly accurate depictions of said animals.
Awkwafina’s comedic charm can only go so far because she looks like a real seagull who might be after your fries at the beach. The close-ups of her bright blue eyes are haunting, though it was probably a good decision to go with blue over gold, which looks a bit demonic even in the cartoon. Sometimes it feels like the editor is trying to tone down the unpleasantness by quickly cutting the scuttle.
Flounder (Jacob Tremblay, who also voices Luca) doesn’t have as much of a problem, mainly because once he’s out of the water, he essentially hides beneath the surface.
Sebastian, played by Daveed Diggs, gets away with it and looks the most charmingly cartoonish.
Visibility is also an issue for more than flounder. Sometimes the underwater scenes in “The Little Mermaid” seem too underwater. Things are muddy, boring and hard to watch, again probably in the name of authenticity, but it’s stressful to watch what the Marshall and VFX teams have worked on over the years, not a pleasant experience. It may be a projection issue—I wasn’t in a particularly high-tech theater with color-enhancing upgrades. But it also means that anyone who doesn’t have access to things like Dolby Vision around the world will also have this problem. When Sebastian picks out the most colorful fish for the number “Under the Sea,” you even start to sympathize a little with Ariel. It’s the exact opposite of the “Avatar: The Way of Water” experience.
“The Little Mermaid,” released in theaters Friday by The Walt Disney Company, has been rated PG by the Motion Picture Association for “action/danger, some horror imagery.” Duration: 135 minutes. Two out of four stars.