‘The Little Mermaid’ Live-Action Review: Sink or Swim?

The Little Mermaid (2023) is a live action adaptation of Disney’s 1989 animated film of the same name and originally based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale. The story is of a little mermaid who dreams of living on the surface world. She falls in love with a prince which she saves and makes a deal with the sea witch in order to gain legs, at the price that if she does not obtain a true love’s kiss in three days, she will be forced to live as a mermaid and belong to the sea witch for all of eternity. 

Originally, upon looking at the casting of the film, there were high hopes being placed on both the cast and crew, especially following the reveal that Lin-Manuel Miranda and Alan Menken would be composing the songs for the film. The stellar cast includes the up and coming Halle Bailey and veteran of Hollywood Daveed Diggs.

The choice to mix both veteran and new actors in the main cast seemed especially fitting due to The Little Mermaid’s themes of having the past, present and future be one. Not to mention that the introduction of a black based little mermaid seemed especially fitting to the themes of acceptance amongst different people.

The movie in and of itself embodies these principals, never straying far from the essence of the original. Not to mention that the casting of Ariel was perfect. It is without a doubt that Ariel has only ever worked as a character when being portrayed by new and upcoming talents within the Hollywood industry.

In the original film, Jodi Benson who played Ariel received her first voice acting job through the film. In the broadway version, Sierra Boggess received her broadway debut through Ariel. In this case, Ariel is played by Halle Bailey, receiving her first ever leading role in a movie, which only made the movie more so special. 

The storyline itself added further changes, though they are not necessarily bad. Ariel’s sisters received new makeover and new names, and their appearance changed based on the seas that they ruled. For example, Karina, the ruler of the Saithe Seas, features a design covered in different shades of blue, demonstrating that her realm is a realm of ice and Mala, who rules the Chaine seas features an asian design in her mermaid looks, portraying the cultures of that sea.

Overall, through Ariel and her sisters, there is  a visible portrayal of equality and inclusion within the movie, further showing the acceptance of people of different cultures and races.

The added backstory of Prince Eric being a free spirit and wishing more for both himself and his people are also visibly highlighted in this film. Within the original, Eric’s background was truly never touched upon but in this, we learn that he’s a man who is also restless and wishing for something more, similar to Ariel’s curious and explorative nature.

The movie adds in these little things to make Ariel and Eric the perfect match for each other personality wise, something which the original film didn’t do. In addition, the idea of a sea witch having bewitched to make him fall in love with her is an even sweeter and welcome addition to the storyline. 

Honestly, there are so many positive things to unpack in this film that this review cannot simply cover it all. Even the CGI which had me skeptical at the beginning turned out very well and the undersea swimming and movements of the fishes and mermaid tails were most believable. With the addition of new songs written by Alan Menken and Lin-Manuel Miranda, the film hits every mark. And most critics agree that The Little Mermaid (2023) improves on the original work.

As for my opinion, I really cannot find one bad thing to say about the film. I’ve always had a very special place in my heart for Ariel and like her, I’ve often wondered if there was something more out there for me. This film encapsulates the childish wonder I felt when watching the original and gives a reminder for me to never give up on my dreams, no matter how absurd they may be. Perhaps at the end of the day, maybe we’re all like Ariel, freely floating about our lives and wishing to be a part of your world.

The Verdict: 8/10

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