Reviewed by: Alexander Malsan
What is true love and how do you know when you have found it?
Negative results of rebelling against one’s parent and his instruction
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” —Ephesians 6:1
“Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord.” —Colossians 3:20
Although Ariel’s father is not perfect and could have curbed her in some wiser ways, he truly loves her.
Making a deal with a devil (sea witch)
Portrayal of fantasy magic and fantasy witchcraft
Halle Bailey … Ariel
Jonah Hauer-King … Prince Eric
Melissa McCarthy … Ursula
Javier Bardem … King Triton
Jude Akuwudike … Joshua
Noma Dumezweni … Queen Selina
Jessica Alexander … Vanessa
Kajsa Mohammar … Karina
Lorena Andrea … Perla
Daveed Diggs … Sebastian (voice)
Jacob Tremblay … Flounder (voice)
Awkwafina … Scuttle (voice)
Simone Ashley … Indira
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|Director||Rob Marshall—“Into the Woods” (2014), “Nine” (2009), “Chicago” (2002), “Memoirs of a Geisha” (2005)|
Walt Disney Pictures
Lucamar Productions (DeLuca Marshall)
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|Distributor||Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures|
Original animated version: The Little Mermaid (1989) — G-Rated
Atlantica is a pretty special place. It is the home of all living aquatic creatures, including the merfolk (mermen and mermaids). The creatures of Atlantica, as well as the sea itself, are ruled by the mighty King Triton who lives with his daughters: Perla, Indira, Mala, Tamika, Karina, Caspia and then there’s Ariel.
Ah, let’s talk about Ariel. She’s always been the black sheep (fish?) of the family. The rest of the family see humans as savage selfish, horrible creatures only out to kill and destroy with no regard for marine life. Ariel, however, sees a different side of humanity, particularly in one human who catches her eye, Prince Eric. “He’s really different from the rest,” she thinks to herself. Overtime, she becomes more and more enamored with Prince Eric. “If only I could live among humans, just for one day.” Careful for what you wish for Ariel.
It just so happens the sea witch has secretly been spying on Ariel, believing Ariel might be the key to seizing King Triton’s trident and taking control of Atlantica and the seas. So Ursuala approaches Ariel and offers her to fulfill her great desire, to become human. All Ariel has to do is get Prince Eric to kiss her in three days, without her voice, mind you, and not just any kiss… true love’s kiss, for if she can, she’ll remain human forever. If she can’t get him to kiss her, however, she’ll turn back into a mermaid and belong to Ursula.
“No this isn’t right,” thinks Ariel. “Fine, then you’ll never be with your true love,” shouts Ursula. Ursula makes a convincing argument. The deal is struck and Ariel becomes a human. Now she really is part of their world…
First off, I’m a fan of “The Little Mermaid,” not simply the story but also the music. As both a movie buff and a music teacher, I am a huge fan of both Alan Menken and Howard Ashman’s music. These men were, and continue to be, some of the most iconic film composers in the history of film music. Their music could be found sporadically and helped ignite what was called the “Disney Renaissance,” where, as other critics pointed out, Disney started to go back to its roots in animation and created many more animated classics like “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin,” etc. As I am a fan of the original, I wanted to ensure that this remake did the original justice.
Shortly before attending my screening, I watched the original 1989 animated “The Little Mermaid.” There were three things I truly appreciated about the original: the passion every actor/actress put into each character, the appropriate use of instruments in each song and the smooth pacing of the film. Going into the screening I wondered how true to the original, musically and performance-wise, they were going to be.
In truth, “The Little Mermaid” (2023) surprised me on every level. While on the outside, many aspects of the original still exist in this film, on the inside this live-action tackles what the animated version didn’t and honestly couldn’t. It goes far deeper into the character’s individual internal conflicts, it provides backstories to characters who, truthfully, needed it in the animated film, and yes, there are a few new musical numbers that strengthened the film.
When it comes to the overall performances, some actors/actresses really shined and some fell flat. For example, Halle Bailey truly shined in this role. She is meek, but not weak, and when she sings my mouth dropped, especially on “Part of Your World.” Her version of this classic is tasteful yet not overly flashy, just enough of her own touch to make it her own. Melissa McCarthy’s performance is also strong and her rendition of “Poor Unfortunate Souls” is fairly strong, even though half is spoken (for reasons I was confused about, because Melissa has a really nice voice). Javier Bardem fell flat as Triton. It just wasn’t the right part for him. Daveed Diggs provides an incredibly humorous Sebastian,
My concerns include the overall pacing of the film: the original was a half hour shorter than this film, and while I can appreciate the additional content, the pacing needed to sped up to make up for this (I checked my watch at least more than once). I also had some issues with the final sequences of the film: it felt far darker than the original film ever did, so parents take caution if you consider taking little ones. The original was G-rated, whereas in this new PG-13 version, Giant Ursula is far more frightening.
VIOLENCE: A character is impaled with a ship’s broken mast and killed. Sailors are seen trying to harpoon fish (unsuccessfully). There are discussions about the Sea King trying to lure sailors to their death. A shark is seen chasing Ariel and Flounder briefly. A character is hit on the head with a cigar pipe. There is a massive storm at sea that throws people overboard and catches the ship on fire (we even see people jumping overboard). We witness a character destroying Ariel’s trinkets. Urusla’s garden is seen attacking a character (briefly). A carriage is seen almost running over people. A bird attacks Vanessa (aka Ursula in disguise) as does another character. A character is seen being shocked by eels. A character is electrocuted, but brought back to life later. A character is seen eating a live shrimp.
LANGUAGE: Idiot (2), stupid (1), shut-up (1)
SEXUAL: Ursula presses her hands underneath her breasts at times.
NUDITY: Since this is a live-action remake, the outfits are more defined. As such, more of the mermaids’ midsection is revealed and the mermens’ chest and shoulders are bare. Ariel is seen naked when picked up from the ocean (she covers herself with her hair and her legs so nothing graphic is seen). We see her later in the tub (again everything is covered). Eric’s intended, Vanessa, wears some revealing clothing in her room (very brief). Eric is sometimes seen with an open shirt.
OCCULT: There are some very brief discussions of sea gods and the folklore of merpeople and King Triton is based on real Greek mythology. Someone mentions a “siren song” was used to heal a character and also to enchant someone into falling in love with her. Ursula is a witch and is seen using potions, chants, and spells to change Ariel into a human (and someone else later on).
ALCOHOL: Sailors are briefly seen drinking during a party on board.
WOKEISM: There is a not so subtle environmentalist messaging within the film, including a scene with King Triton and his daughters cleaning up a shipwreck and talking about the humans and how they leave their messes all over the ocean floor and have no regard for marine life—“killing all the coral, destroying the reef and upsetting the balance.” There is also a message about progression (progressiveness) and not being left behind that is mentioned a few times throughout.
OTHER: Ariel is very defiant to King Triton and sneaks up to the surface world often against his wishes. Eric is often defiant and disobedient to his mother, the Queen, and leaves the castle against her wishes. Ursula’s lair is dark and ominous.
One of the underlying reasons Ariel longs for the surface world is because she desires more than what she has in the ocean. She is not content with how things are and with where she is. She wants more.
As Christians, it is not necessarily wrong to want something, but it becomes problematic when we continually ask for more and more and never find satisfaction in what we are given. Since God is the ultimate provider, and in His providence gives us everything we truly need, we must be patient and wait on Him, for his timing is perfect. In Ecclesiastes it states…
“Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the appetite: this also is vanity and a striving after wind.” —Ecclesiastes 6:9
Paul said this to the Phillipians…
“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” —Phillippians 4:11-12
But then Paul concluded by stating…
“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” —Philippians 4:19
“The Little Mermaid” (2023) caught my attention in more ways than one. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this adaptation as much as I did. As a standalone film, not judging it by its 1989 twin, it is an enjoyable addition to the Disney collection, as it has heart, nostalgia and gives more context to the story than the original was allowed to provide. At the same time, however, the price to pay is a little more gravitas in terms of atmosphere and the bar for the level of peril has been raised quite a bit this time around, so parents should take caution before proceeding.
Overall, however, I believe that this film is probably okay for most families with older children and teens. I would suggest leaving the youngest ones at home (I heard a toddler at one of the screenings I attended, and they definitely started crying in fright during a couple of more intense moments). As always, viewer discretion is advised.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.
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