10 June 2023

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The Little Mermaid (2023), a review

7 min read
the little mermaid

I had the opportunity to watch The Little Mermaid (2023) on May 24 at Robinson’s Magnolia’s Movie Theater 5 with my family and it was beautiful! It was like watching the animated version that first appeared in 1989 but with some variations in scenes and added songs written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. If you’ve watched Hamilton, In The Heights, Vivo, you will immediately recognize the songs he wrote as Lin has a very distinctive style. In an interview with Collider, this is what Lin had to say:

“So much of my work on The Little Mermaid was that wish fulfillment. I actually didn’t write any new songs for Sebastian the Crab because I love his songs so much. I was like, “I can’t. Nope, not me. I can’t do it.” I did get to write for some of the other characters in that movie. Every song you love in The Little Mermaid is still in The Little Mermaid, we just found some new moments to musicalize. That’s really tricky.”

The songs we know and love in the original Disney cartoon that was written by Alan Menken are still there, including my favorite song from the movie, Part of Your World, originally sung by Jodi Benson.

Halle Bailey as Ariel
Halle Bailey as Ariel

Halle Bailey as Ariel (aka the Little Mermaid) confused me at first because I thought that Halle Berry would be too old to play the role of a teenage mermaid. The similarities in their names are definitely cause for confusion. I’m glad that got cleared up in this article on movieweb.com. I don’t know why there was such a hullabaloo about her playing Ariel, she was fantastic as Ariel. Maybe I’m just color-blind because, to be honest, the fact that Halle is not white was not the first thing I noticed about her in the movie.

It is possible that this was not a great concern for me since I grew up watching stage plays in school and then later in the bigger theaters. I attended an all-girls Catholic school and when the drama club put on a play they didn’t usually match the perceived appearance of the character role. Whoever was the best in playing the character, was the one assigned to play it. In this rendition of The Little Mermaid, the best person happened to be Halle.

Other notable performances

Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric
Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric

Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric was a great choice. His acting was on point and he certainly has the singing chops for the role. I also thought it was perfect that his physique was not like romance book male leads. It made him seem more … attainable, perhaps the word I am looking for. He’s fit, just not buff, which I felt was appropriate for the character.

Before watching The Little Mermaid, I had never heard of Jonah Hauer-King. To be fair, I also haven’t been watching a lot of movies lately. This movie certainly put him in the leading man category for this and future films.

Melissa McCarthy as Ursula
Melissa McCarthy as Ursula

Melissa McCarthy as Ursula is surprising but in a good way. I know her best in her comedic roles so seeing her acting villainous and not trying to draw a laugh is refreshing! I’m glad to know she has more than just comedy in her toolbelt.

She looked so much like the cartoon Ursula but better! More glam, way prettier, and somehow more menacing. The way she modulated her voice was so on point, I got chills. By the way, I chose a pic of her as Ursula because I was just really amazed at how she looked in this movie.

A question that is often asked about Ursula is whether she is an octopus or a squid. Based on the dialogue where she referred to King Triton as her “squibling” (wordplay of squid and sibling) I think it is safe to safe she is a squid. However, no matter how many times I count it, she only has 8 tentacles so that should make her an octopus … unless we count her arms in the limb count.

Daveed Diggs as Sebastian
Daveed Diggs as Sebastian

Daveed Diggs plays Sebastian is certainly a far cry from playing LaFayette in Hamilton. Nonetheless, he was able to deliver the role of stodgy majordomo, unwilling babysitter, and later, desperate matchmaker to a tee.

I don’t know what an authentic Jamaican accent sounds like, but he carried one off pretty well to these uneducated ears.

Awkwafina as Scuttle
Awkwafina as Scuttle

Awkafina plays Scuttle, the kooky seagull that likes to tell Ariel stories about humans and their gadgets and things. Even though the original voice actor in the animated version was male, I don’t think it was ever really stated that Scuttle had to be a specific gender so it worked. If at all, I think it worked better with her in the role, because she easily gave that busybody vibe I was expecting from Scuttle.

Awkwafina is not a name that is easy to forget. 1) She’s like Madonna or Prince … doesn’t use a last name so that makes her stand out. 2) Her voice is distinctive … raspy and loud and full of character. I think I saw her for the first time in Crazy Rich Asians and after that, it felt like the name Awkafina became synonymous with funny female Asian.

Sebastian and Scuttle have so many scenes together and their dynamic is fun! Not counting Ariel’s solo, I think my favorite songs in the movie are Scuttlebutt and Kiss the Girl, which they sang together.

My thoughts on the movie

Thank you, technology, for making it possible to have underwater scenes without actually being underwater all the time. I loved watching the way their hair moved as if they were underwater. Was a lot of the underwater scenes wirework? Even in the scenes where we see Ariel swimming I had to look closely to see if she was actually in the water or in the air on wires. Movie magic is awesome! However it was done, I applaud it.

I think my favorite action sequence was at the beginning with the shark. That was scary! I’m glad we opted not to watch on 3D. As for musical numbers, it will have to be Kiss the Girl, hands down. The harmonies, the choreography, the special effects … they all worked together to create that masterpiece number.

I think this movie bears repeating. Maybe next time I will watch it in 3D.

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