Early reviews of Disney’s live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid,” the movie that changes the race of Ariel by starring Halle Bailey, are in. Unsurprisingly, those who got an early opportunity to view it are underwhelmed by what Disney produced.
Variety reported that the film’s director, Rob Marshall recently held a private screening of the film and that the 80 invitees, of which a number were A-list celebrities Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Matt Damon, and Ben Platt. That source claimed that those in attendance applauded each musical number in the live-action film and raved about it after the screening ended.
But film critic Courtney Howard was not raving about the film. Instead, she was distinctly unimpressed, calling it “Charming, but incredibly spotty” in a brief Twitter review. In her words:
#TheLittleMermaid: Charming, but incredibly spotty. Halle Bailey, Jonah Hauer-King, Melissa McCarthy & Javier Bardem put their heart & souls into a film that can’t escape its animated legacy. Best when it leans into campy bonkers, yet limits its fantasy elements for no reason.
That said, A+++ for making Sebastian more of a voyeuristic perv, orchestrating Ariel and Eric’s attempts at kissing. #TheLittleMermaid
— Courtney Howard (@Lulamaybelle) May 9, 2023
Similarly, Variety contributor Simon Thompson described the film as “Endearing but uneven.” Continuing, he added that “The Little Mermaid” is a film that “doesn’t deliver the magic of the animated classic, but there are plenty of creative touches from Rob Marshall to float the audience’s boats. Halle Bailey and Melissa McCarthy are great. Daveed Diggs and Awkwafina provide solid comic relief.”
Joining them in the “meh” take on the film was Gizmodo contributor Germain Lussier, who said, “It’s real simple. Are you excited for #TheLittleMermaid? You’ll like it. It’s exactly what you think it is. Are you skeptical and worried about it? That’s valid too. It looks weird and disjointed. Bailey is great, McCarthy rules, the songs work but it just feels so unnecessary.”
The Insider’s Kirsten Acuna generally agreed in her take on the film, also posted to Twitter, saying:
#TheLittleMermaid is filled with a few great performances from Halle Bailey and Melissa McCarthy, but it’s a mostly paint-by-numbers remake that’s isn’t as good as the animated masterpiece.
Say what you will about the designs of Sebastian, Flounder, and Scuttle, but Daveed Diggs, Jacob Tremblay, and Awkwafina are all standouts. Diggs is especially hilarious, getting many chuckles from our screening
Ariel and Eric get new songs along with a rap for Scuttle (the latter of which my crowd enjoyed).
The film’s biggest misstep is not taking advantage of expanding more on Ursula’s backstory because McCarthy IS SO SO SO deliciously evil as Ursula, slipping right into the iconic villain role.
Halle Bailey, the film’s lead, praised its diversity when speaking at the Met Gala, saying: “I definitely think it’s going to be different because you can see a modern take on our world, and you can see a reflection of the world that we live in today. This world that we live in is a beautiful melting pot of diversity.” Left out of that was an explanation of why a Dutch fairy tale needs to be retroactively filled with “diversity.”
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