Plot: What’s it about?
I majored in Advertising in college and one of the few things I remember from my classes is that my professor said that “No company will ever have enough money for an advertising budget…except American Honda.” That was 25 years ago and I’m willing to bet that it still rings true. I mention this because I equate Disney to American Honda. You want it – Disney’s got it. Marvel? Yep. Star Wars? Uh huh. I think two examples should suffice. One thing Disney is known for, though, is remaking their own classic animated films into “new” CGI theatrical films. Cinderella, Dumbo, The Lion King are just a few that have “made the leap” and now we get The Little Mermaid. It’s a bit odd, actually, seeing as how this animated film was essentially responsible for the resurgence of Disney back in the late 80’s. Ariel is played by Halle Bailey and, guess what…she’s black? I feel sorry for her. The social media backlash was second to none. You’d like to think that we as a country could get over such trite things. You’d be mistaken. Politics aside, let’s take a trip…under the sea!
If you’ve ever seen the movie, there wasn’t a lot of re-inventing the wheel going on. Hey, if it ain’t broke…Ariel (Halle Bailey) has always dreamt of being a part of the human world. But her father, King Triton (Javier Bardem) simply won’t allow it. Instead he keeps her contained in the sea. Ariel, however, disobeys him and manages to find Prince Eric (Johan Hauer-King) navigating a shipwreck. Ariel wants to be with him. This is when Ursula (Melissa McCarthy), the wicked sea witch, tricks her and informs that she can only be returned to the sea if she kisses Eric within three days. Being a Disney movie, we’ve got a litany of adorable creatures along for the ride with Flounder (voiced by Jacob Tremblay), Sebastian (voiced by Daveed Diggs) and Scuttle (voiced by Awkwafina).
If you’re one of those that simply can’t stand and/or handle this “new” version simply because of the actors involved, go watch the 1989 original. Or don’t. It doesn’t matter to me. While I appreciated the brevity of the animated version (this one clocks in at 135 minutes), this one is a thing of beauty to look at and behold. There have been a few liberties taken with the songs, but don’t worry – you’ll catch on pretty quick. It might not pack the same punch as the original animated film, but this is one of the better live action adaptations of one of Disney’s crown jewels. Bailey is a standout and I can see a bright future for her. Add to that some of the talent involved and we’ve got a pretty solid flick. The only drawback would be the running time, I don’t know if the little ones can keep focused for a 2+ hour film which, admittedly, does make for a few slower scenes in the film.
Video: How’s it look?
If it’s a great-looking image you’re after then look no further. Much like Aquaman, there are several scenes that take place “underwater” but, you know…not really. The increased contrast along with the darker scenes tend to give off an odd vibe, but it works here. As we might expect, the 2.39:1 AVC HD image sparkles with amazing detail and color. The scenes on land are equally impressive showcasing the high production values of the film as well as the oh so pretty faces of the cast. While the target audience might not fully appreciate how good this looks, know that this will be hard to beat. It’s a winner.
Audio: How’s it sound?
If you’re going to belt out showtunes, might as well have them sound good. And they do. The included DTS HD Master Audio mix pulls no punches with its mix. And it’s sure to please. The front channels are extremely active, but pair it with the surrounds and we’ve got an aural stage that had me impressed. And if you can get past the Hamilton-esque style song (one of the head-scratching moments for me), it does sound pretty amazing. Vocals, notably Bailey’s, sound pure, sharp and crisp. This might not pack the punch that some of Disney’s other titles do, but don’t kid yourself – it delivers on all levels.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Sing Along Version – Sing along with your favorite songs while watching the movie with on-screen lyrics.
- Hotter Under The Water – Discover how director Rob Marshall and his team brought the story of The Little Mermaid to life with this documentary in five chapters:
- A Tale Of The Bottomless Blue – Join Rob Marshall on the set of one of the most ambitious and challenging films he’s ever directed.
- I Know Something’s Starting Right Now – Join cast members Halle Bailey, Melissa McCarthy, Jonah Hauer-King and more and learn how they were cast in the film and what it was like to bring director Rob Marshall’s vision to life.
- Down Where It’s Wetter – Dip your toes into the virtual ocean and learn about how the breathtaking underwater world was created with visual effects, imagination and a lot of talented artists.
- Explore That Shore Up Above – From Prince Eric’s castle to the beach, explore the above-the-sea locations and the elaborate production design behind them.
- Do What The Music Say – Discover how legendary composer Alan Menken teamed up with Lin- Manuel Miranda to write new songs to accompany the original classics
- Song Breakdowns
- Wild Unchartered Waters – Prince Eric, played by Jonah Hauer-King, gets his own song, written by Alan Menken and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Go behind the song, from the writing to the recording, to the filming on a practical ship.
- Under the Sea – Get a first-hand look at how professional dancers helped bring director Rob Marshall’s vision to life as they stood in for the various animated sea creatures that sing and dance in this showstopping number.
- Kiss The Girl – Float along and get a frog’s-eye view of the beautiful set built to film the live-action version of this classic song.
- Poor Unfortunate Souls – Join Melissa McCarthy (Ursula) as she takes us on the journey of making her character’s signature song.
- The Scuttlebutt On Sidekicks – Dive in and meet Sebastian, Flounder and Scuttle, who not only have their own song, “The Scuttlebutt,” but also fresh looks as they work hard to make sure Ariel and Eric kiss before Ursula’s deadline.
- Passing The Dinglehopper – Ariel met Ariel when Halle Bailey worked with Jodi Benson — the voice of Ariel in the original animated movie — who appears in a clever cameo in the live-action film..
- Bloopers – Laugh along with the cast as they have the time of their lives making The Little Mermaid.
The Bottom Line
Love it or hate it, I have to admit I had a bit of fun with this one. I’ve never really been a big fan of Disney’s animated films (other than Aladdin), but they are enjoyable. Disney’s disc looks and sounds great and it’s got a smattering selection of extras that round out the package very nicely.