The film tells the beloved story of Ariel, a beautiful young mermaid full of life and thirst for adventure.
The youngest of Triton’s daughters and the most disobedient, Ariel longs to learn more about the world beyond the sea, and when she visits the surface, she falls in love with the charming Prince Eric.
Ariel makes a deal with the evil sea witch, Ursula, which gives her a chance to experience life on land.
We have repeatedly discussed the creative bankruptcy of the Disney mega-corporation, which insists on offering remakes of old successes or continuing indefinitely franchises that should have long since ended publicly. But the Little Mermaid remake exceeds expectations with a happy combination of visual effects, energy and pace that partly counterbalances the great shortcoming of these remakes, namely that you know every second what’s coming next, and the surprises come only from the form and not from the bottom.
We all know the story, so there’s no point in repeating it here. The biggest criticism of the original film, winner of two Oscars (Best Song and Best Soundtrack) in 1990, was that it focused on a young woman who accepts a disability just to get her hands on a man. You can hardly find a more anti-feminist premise than this in the entire Disney portfolio, therefore the great curiosity about the remake concerned the adjustments made to the story to “accommodate” the expectations of a modern audience. Well, these adjustments do not affect the essential moments and yet the message of the film is as positive as possible.
Of all the remakes after Disney animations, this one seems the least unnecessary. I haven’t seen Beauty and the Beast or The Lion King, because from the trailers they seemed to copy the originals frame by frame, but I have seen Alladin and The Little Mermaid is definitely on top, especially because of Halle Bailey’s performance, which brings emotion to a character, Ariel, already attached for the simple reason that he wants to find his place in the world. The story of The Little Mermaid 2023 is less about “how to get a man” and more about knowing what you want and being willing to do everything to get that ideal.
A happy update to the story also comes in the form of Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King). If in the original film he was an orphan and was a simple object of desire for Ariel, in the remake Eric must convince his adoptive mother, Queen Selina (Noma Dumezweni), that his vision of the future of the small kingdom, a vision of openness to other peoples and cultures, is viable. Practically, Ariel’s and Eric’s itinerary, that of putting their foot in the door and getting out from under their parents’ slipper, are synchronized, and the resulting message is no longer about sex, but about the new generation that must be listened to by the old one.
Surprisingly, a big plus of the remake is Melissa McCarthy, the comedic actress who never managed to overcome the success of the film that made her famous and earned her an Oscar nomination, Bridesmaids (2011). McCarthy completely changes the register and perfectly folds Ursula, the manipulative witch who does not hesitate to sacrifice Ariel to get revenge on her brother, King Triton (Javier Bardem), Ariel’s father. With a low voice and a British accent (all the great villains in Disney animations have a British accent, for example the tiger Shere Khan from The Jungle Book), the actress becomes an overweight and underwater version of the evil Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmatians. An octopus stranded in the dark depths of the sea, Ursula sings her famous hit, “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” luring Ariel into a truly Faustian understanding.
Like the original, the remake promotes kindness, honesty and openness to the unknown. At the end, a line from King Triton, “You shouldn’t have lost your voice to be heard”, becomes the great message of the film, that of listening to the smallest and trusting that if the opinions of two generations are different , this does not necessarily mean that the younger generation is not right. If there is at least one parent in the audience who insists that their son or daughter attend the Faculty of Pharmacy while he or she wants to study Arts, maybe The Little Mermaid is a more necessary film than we initially thought…