By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
Despite the incessant backlash surrounding "The Little Mermaid," Halle Bailey
is undeniably sensational as Ariel, the free-spirited mermaid who longs to be part of the human world. The charismatic, young actress makes quite a splash here.
Her self-assuredness and powerhouse vocals shine especially on the dazzling song "Part of Your World" and really throughout this captivating live-action adaptation from director Rob Marshall
("Mary Poppins Returns," "Into the Woods").
"The Little Mermaid" is a splendid reimagining of Disney's Oscar winning 1989 movie, yet it maintains the heart and soul of the original.
Ariel (Bailey), is the daughter of King Triton (Javier Bardem, "Being the Ricardo’s"). He's overprotective and dislikes humans because they killed his wife and are destroying the sea with their shipwrecked items that he now collects.
Ariel has seven sisters who reflect the seas they rule. Representation really does matter.
Her sisters are more obedient and loyal than she is. Ariel merely wants to find out what makes humans tick. Surely all of them can't be bad. So, she defies her father. She heads out with her best friends, Flounder (voiced by the adorable Jacob Tremblay, "Luca"), and a jittery crab named Sebastian, (A terrific Daveed Diggs, TV's "Blindspotting") who is also King Triton's trusted servant and who is tasked with watching over Ariel.
When Ariel goes above the sea, she notices fireworks going off near the ship of Prince Eric (a charming Jonah Hauer-King, TV's "World on Fire"). A storm hits and the ship crashes and plunges Eric into the ocean. Ariel rescues the unconscious Prince and starts singing to him. When he awakens, he doesn't quite know what hit him or where that special and beautiful girl who saved him went.
Prince Eric's mother Queen Selina (Noma Dumezweni, TV's "Presumed Innocence" and "The Watcher") wants what's best for her son, but she doesn't trust sea people at all. Still, she instructs the Prime Minister of her kingdom, Sir Grimsby (Art Malik, "The Man who Fell from Earth") and others to find the young girl that has captured his heart.
Meanwhile, Ariel's love for Prince Eric is growing and she doesn't know what to do. That's when the conniving sea witch Ursula (a terrific Melissa McCarthy, "Thor: Love & Thunder") and her eel partners in crime (Flotsam and Jetsam) come along. She strikes a deal with Ariel forcing her to relinquish her voice. In return, Ariel will get legs and be among the humans. The other catch is, if Ariel can't convince Prince Eric to fall in love with her and seal it with a kiss in three days, she really loses everything.
Ariel's friends all know what's at stake especially, Scuttle, the dimwitted northern gannet bird (a funny Awkwafina, "Renfield"). They do their best to break Ariel from Ursula's spell. This heightens the drama and sets the stage for Prince Eric and Ariel to finally connect and make that move.
Song-wise, "The Little Mermaid" doesn't disappoint either. The music comes courtesy of Oscar winner Alan Menken
and Tony winner Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Bailey pours her heart into "Part of Your World." McCarthy's "Poor Unfortunate Souls" is a booming delight. "Kiss the Girl" featuring Diggs, Awkwafina and Tremblay is a fun treat.
There are new songs too including Lin-Manuel Miranda's funny Calypso, flavored ditty, "The Scuttlebutt" performed by Diggs and Awkwafina as well as Jonah Hauer-King's "Wild Uncharted Waters" and Bailey's "For the First Time."
While there is a lot to this sprawling fantastical story, the big draw is hands down, Halle Bailey. She is radiant and truly makes "The Little Mermaid" such a lively, vibrant, stirring, and magical odyssey that is sure to please both young and old audiences alike.
Be sure to catch my N2Entertainment.net movie talk segment on the Kitty O'Neal Show Fridays now at 5:17 p.m. and 6:47 p.m. on radio station KFBK 93.1 FM and 1530 AM.
Look At This Trailer For "THE LITTLE MERMAID"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), The American Film Institute (AFI), and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.