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Welcome, World Travelers! Fine, I’ll Review the Live-Action Little Mermaid!

Welcome, World Travelers! Fine, I’ll Review the Live-Action Little Mermaid!

by James Coulter

I didn’t want to watch or review this movie. I didn’t see it when it was in theaters. And even when it was released on Disney Plus, even though I watched it on its release day, I’m only now writing about it.

And why should I? It’s yet another Disney live-action remake–a transparently cynical attempt by the Walt Disney Company to repackage its classic animated flicks and resell them in live-action.

The last time I watched a live-action remake in theaters was 2010’s Alice in Wonderland. Considering how the financial success of that film prompted Disney to remake even more of its animated films into live-action, I’ve regretted buying that movie ticket ever since.

Since then, I’ve made it a personal priority to never watch any of these Disney live-action remakes in theaters. I only feel I’d be enabling Disney’s bad habit by doing so. Even when they’re finally released onto streaming, I still don’t watch them. Why waste my time watching a mediocre live-action remake when I can watch the far superior animated movie it’s based on?

If it sounds like I’m talking around this movie rather than talking about it, that’s because I am. Because, well…what’s there to talk about? It’s a live-action remake of The Little Mermaid. Did you watch the original animated movie? Well, this movie is the exact same thing, only in live-action.

And let me make this clear: I do not hate this movie because they made Ariel black. Personally, I thought Halle Bailey’s performance was this movie’s only saving grace, and her singing voice was certainly the reason why she was chosen for this movie.

Am I annoyed Disney has decided (yet again) to gain diversity brownie points by race-swapping a character in a movie rather than making an original movie starring a person of color? Yes. (And considering how Disney allowed an original animated movie with a POC main character like Strange World wither and die on the vine, I’m especially peeved!)

But am I also annoyed by the racist backlash this movie has received from angry dorks online. Yes. Unequivocally, yes. Like, it’s ridiculous that some folks are so mad about a black actress playing a white mermaid that they have to argue that it’s scientifically inaccurate for a mermaid to be black. (Hey, you know what else is scientifically inaccurate? Actual mermaids!)

Again, if it sounds like I’m talking around this movie rather than about it, that’s because I am. What else is there to say? It’s the animated Little Mermaid in live-action with a black actress. And like every other live-action remake, this movie takes what was magical and fantastical and strips it away for the sake of “realism.”

Take the “Under The Sea” scene. The song was evidently written for an animated film. It has lines about different sea creatures playing musical instruments. (“The newt play the flute. The carp play the harp.” etc.) You can portray that in animation.

In live-action, however? Especially if you’re trying to look “photo-realistic”? Not so much.

So what do we get instead? Ariel floating in a swarm of jellyfish, riding a flotilla of marching sea turtles, and passing by uncanny valley-style sea creatures unnaturally gyrating to the music. Again, it takes away everything magical about the animated movie in a futile attempt to appear more “realistic.”

To its credit, the movie adds three new songs. One is sung by Prince Eric, and it’s so forgettable that I forgot all about it rightafter it was sung. The other is sung by Ariel when she arrives on land for the first time, and like the other new song, it’s so forgettable that I forgot all about it right after it was sung. The only new song I didn’t forget about was the one sung by the seagull Scuttle—and that’s because it’s less a song and more a screeching hate crime against eardrums.

Oh, but the movie is notably different in one way. You know how in the original movie, Ariel was curious about the surface world, but her father forbids her from going up there to explore it because he had an irrational hatred of humans? Well, in this movie, along with all that, Prince Eric is curious about the world outside his island home, but his mother forbids him from exploring it because she has an irrational hatred of mermaids and other sea creatures. (Get it! Sigh.)

In conclusion, if you want to watch a movie about a little mermaid, don’t watch this movie. Watch the animated classic it’s based on. It’s better and shorter. Watch that. Don’t watch the live-action remake. It sucks seaweed.

And with that, I am never reviewing another live-action Disney remake. Especially the upcoming remake of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs—excuse me, Seven “Magical Creatures.” Ugh!)

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