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The Little Mermaid review: A ‘spectacle with an allure and vitality of its own’


There is logic in the breakdown of live action and animation here. Even half of the humans are played by the actors while everyone else is animated, including Ariel’s friends Scuttle the Bird (voiced by Awkwafina, with quite a few funny lines) and Flounder (Jacob Tremblay in a functional role). But if only we had seen Diggs sing and dance.

Melissa McCarthy plays the sea witch Ursula with sinister delight, but is constantly overwhelmed by her bolts of light, falling claws and other special effects, particularly when she gives Ariel her show: grow legs, go overboard and make Eric fall in love with her, but do it without a sound. Even without dialogue, Billie makes her relationship with Eric seem real, and the Hower-King gives Eric enough personality, a prince with a social conscience, that he’s more of the usual cute Disney dreamboat.

Alan Menken’s original songs, with lyrics by the late Howard Ashman, are mostly intact, and the small changes are barely noticeable improvements. Kiss the Girl now says “just ask her” instead of suggesting that Eric go in for the kiss, and Ursula’s Poor Unfortunate Souls no longer suggests that men prefer women who can’t speak (although the movie is set in the 9th century). ten)). However, Menken’s three new songs with lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda did not begin to measure up. The rap called The Scuttlebutt, which is sung by Awkwafina and Sebastian, isn’t great but at least it avoids Eric Wilde’s Uncharted Waters and Ariel debut riff.

In true superhero fashion, the movie feels underwhelming. A beach dance and carriage ride scene for Eric and Ariel extends the running time to 2 hours and 15 minutes. In another unnecessary touch, Eric’s mother the Queen (Noma Dumezweni) offers a final, blunt message of unity, saying that the world of sea and land must live in harmony. The film’s diverse cast has already articulated the idea of ​​unity, and has done so most eloquently. The Little Mermaid mostly avoids preaching. It remains what it always was: a charming escapist fantasy.

★★★ ☆☆

The Little Mermaid is released in general release from May 26th.

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