A live-action remake of Disney’s 1989 animated classic The Little Mermaid she wants a perfect Ariel. If not, it will sink like a stone.
Halle Bailey (adult-ish) turns out perfect: He has a clear, powerful voice – able to unleash a tsunami of emotion when he sings “Part of Your World” – and his performance is compellingly fun and sweet, even relatable.
And she achieves this while spending much of the movie saddled up with a tail resembling a candy wrapper-inspired Met Gala gown.
the rest Mermaid, Directed by Rob Marshall (Mary Poppins Returns) with a steady hand but not a very light touch, it doesn’t have the boundless simplicity of Bailey. A messy, messy-looking movie – imagine James Cameron spending a fortune to create Avatar: The Way of the Soup. The famous “Under the Sea” number, which won the Best Song Oscar for its original, is a flamboyant aquatic spectacle that might be a goldfish’s dream to reside in Las Vegas.
Melissa McCarthy as Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King is an actor with two graceful dimples but at least it’s out of time, there isn’t much presence). But McCarthy is not a player to be beaten by Hans Christian Andersen. Its sour yet powerful performance is a cloud of squid-inked discontent.
And Scuttle the seagull’s voice, Awkwafina, honks and squeals with lively arrogance.
On the other hand, Javier Bardem never gets a chance to bring the role to life as Ariel’s dreary august father, King Triton. Finally, in the shallow water near the shore, with matted hair and a long gray beard, he looks like a statue of a holy martyr thrown into the children’s pool.
The music, which grew out of several songs with contributions from Lin-Manuel Miranda, is boldly melodic. It doesn’t bother you that the lyrics sung under the waves are in clear English instead of “gwarba warba wobo”. waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa” and that counts for something.
Yet the story plays on emotional and psychological keys that don’t wash out over time. The movie opens with a quote from Andersen – “But a mermaid has no tears and therefore suffers a lot more” – it brings to mind a damp romantic masochism that you can only find in old TCM movies and elite Nicole Kidman vehicles.
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Why would Ariel have to endure so much misery in pursuit of a human prince? (In the original story, every baby step Ariel takes on land causes excruciating pain – she seems to have a nasty case of plantar fasciitis.) It’s unfair to ask why Eric shouldn’t put on his scuba gear and go into the water. find true love?
But Bailey is everything here. When you sing, when you smile, you feel that you can live happily ever after.
The Little Mermaid in cinemas on friday.