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If you’re looking for a movie that’ll leave you with a huge smile on your face,

The Little Mermaid (2023) is it!

Set to make its theatrical debut on May 26, 2023, The Little Mermaid does a great job of developing the beloved characters from the 1989 animated feature and creating a fun family friendly summer blockbuster that everyone should be able to enjoy.

The Casting of The Little Mermaid

There has been a lot of talk about the casting behind The Little Mermaid, in particular Halle Bailey as Ariel.

As someone who went to see The Little Mermaid in the cinemas in 1989, it might not surprise my readers to know that I am not familiar with the young actress who makes up one half of Chloe x Halle. She is as cute as a button and I loved her youthful enthusiasm and the excellent way her eyes glittered with amazement, innocence, and intelligence, especially when her character is speechless.

And her singing voice is truly beautiful and her versions of “Part of Your World” and the new song “For the First Time” (by Lin-Manuel Miranda) were fan favorites at the media screening I attended at The El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood.

Melissa McCarthy is the ultimate Disney villainess and her version of Ursula is spectacular and quite the scene-stealer. I am not sure if this was Melissa’s natural singing voice but her “Poor Unfortunate Souls” did justice to the legendary Pat Carroll. And the costume design by Colleen Atwood was a feast for the eyes.

Jonah Hauer-King (“World on Fire“) was given some of the best material to sink his teeth into with this new version of Prince Eric as written by David Magee (“Mary Poppins Returns“). It was so special to see the way that Magee wrote the courtship for Prince Eric and Princess Ariel when she had her human form.

I won’t give away many spoilers but it is quite special to see the way that Eric connected with his adopted mother, Queen Selina (Noma Dumezweni), and Grismby (Art Malik), who has been elevated from a butler to the Prime Minister in this live action remake.

Both Dumezweni and Malik are excellent additions to the cast of The Little Mermaid (2023) and bring extra heart and warmth to the movie. In fact, either of their performances would be worth the ticket price.

In additional supporting roles, Javier Bardem (“Skyfall“) creates a sympathetic portrait of King Triton,  Daveed Diggs (“Hamilton“) proves his worth as a voice over actor bringing animation to Sebastian even when the CGI lacks expression, and Awkwafina is hilarious as the voice of Scuttle, the female diving bird.

The Music of The Little Mermaid

One of the weakest aspects of the Disney live action remakes has been the music. Considering the amazing new music that has been written for the Broadway productions of Aladdin, The Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and The Little Mermaid, it is always a wonder why the powers that be decide not to include those songs and instead write new unmemorable songs.

Who can forget the disaster of not including “If I Can’t Love Her” in the live action version of The Beauty and the Beast? Fans were in an uproar at this decision and for many of us, “Evermore” can never live up to the grandeur and heart of the 1994 stage musical.

Similarly, Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s new songs for both Prince Eric (“Wild Uncharted Waters”) and Princess Ariel (“For the First Time”) are clever and catchy but they cannot compare to the wonderful songs that were written for the 2007 Broadway musical version of The Little Mermaid. It will be curious to see if the record sales can compare.

The one standout from the new music that drew many a heart laugh from the audience this weekend was “The Scuttlebutt” which was a silly rap duet between Awkwafina and Daveed Diggs. Now, that was a funny number that I could easily see someone buying the motion picture soundtrack for.

Overall, I’d give the new music a solid “B” but these new songs are just not that memorable and even the lyrics from “The Scuttlebutt” evade my memory. All I can say to you is that they were fun songs. Do yourself a favor and buy yourself the Broadway soundtrack featuring Sierra Boggess.

The Live Action Versus the Animated Classic The Little Mermaid

THE LITTLE MERMAID with Jonah Hauer-King and Halle Bailey.
Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric and Halle Bailey as Ariel in Disney’s live-action THE LITTLE MERMAID. Photo by Giles Keyte. © 2023 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

[SPOILERS] This review would not be complete without a few thoughts about the comparison between live action and animated feature. Without wanting to give away too much, I will point out just a couple weaknesses and strengths.

    • Weakness. The relationship between King Triton and Ariel is lacking.
      • In the animated version of The Little Mermaid, Ariel calls Triton “Daddy” and there is a moment of sheer love and gratitude when she realizes he is going to turn her into a human being at the very end. In the live action version, their relationship never warms much even after Ursula has been vanquished with Ariel only calling Triton “Father”.
    • Weakness. The decision to change Flounder from chubby to a skinny.
      • Much like how we are given an excellent reason for the change from Scuttle being a seagull to a diving bird, I was expecting to see something (even if it was small) explain why the writers had to change the appearance of Ariel’s sidekick. Unless I was missing something, there was no reason given for this decision. What’s so wrong with a cute and chubby fish?
    • Strength. The attraction between Ariel and Eric goes beyond the surface.
      • The 2023 remake of The Little Mermaid does a great job of helping create a realistic and charming attraction between Ariel and Eric with shared interests and time spent together that go beyond the superficial.
    • Strength. Prince Eric’s Backstory and Paternal Relationship.
      • The 2023 remake does a great job developing the character of Prince Eric whether its his relationship with the sailors onboard the ship, his relationship with Prime Minister Grimsby, his relationship with his adopted mother Queen Selina, or even his relationship with the people in the village near the castle.

The Little Mermaid Release Date

Catch The Little Mermaid on the big screen when it premieres on May 26, 2023.

For a special treat, make a reservation to enjoy The Little Mermaid at the El Capitan Theatre with its exclusive blue screen.

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Experience the joy and wonder of The Little Mermaid under the sea! 🌊🐠✨ This timeless story will leave you with a smile on your face. #feelgoodmovie #mermaidlove

The Little Mermaid just got a whole lot funnier with funny woman Melissa McCarthy making a splash as Ursula 👑🧜‍♀️