Thursday, May 25, 2023

'The Little Mermaid' sings, swims away with Disney live-action honors

There's a lot to admire about Disney's latest take on the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale, "The Little Mermaid," even if, like me, you might believe that Uncle Walt's animated movie machine should not be toyed with.

In fact, led by big-screen newcomer Halle Bailey, as the nicely "little" Ariel with a magically huge voice, and the expert villainy of Melissa McCarthy, a water witch-worthy successor to the vocal antics of the late, great Pat Carroll from the 1989 original, this swimmingly new version just might be the best of Disney's live-action do overs so far.

It also says here that mighty McCarthy's dazzling replay of "Poor Unfortunate Souls" could be counted as the real musical showstopper, despite the top-notch array of other standard "Mermaid" tunes updated for the remake, including Oscar-winning Best Song "Under the Sea," Ariel's ever-yearning "Part of Your World," and the fun-loving "Kiss the Girl."

Note, too, how the latter ditty becomes a sparkling vehicle to show off some serious chemistry between Mermaid Bailey and hunky landlubber Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) while once again warbled by Sebastian the Crab. The loyal crustacean gets voiced this time by Daveed Diggs but remains a frazzled spy for Ariel's dad (King Triton, regally and professionally portrayed -- what else would we expect? -- by Javier Bardem).

Standout moments surrounding new vocals, co-written by Lin-Manuel Miranda with Disney wunderkind Alan Menken, feature the fitting "Wild Uncharted Waters" (strongly performed by Hauer-King) and a uniquely wacky "Scuttlebutt" (rap-voiced by the busy Awkwafina, on board here as Scuttle Seagull).

No surprise really, then, that the such a merry mix of cool choreography, music and a little movie magic comes along with helming by dancer-turned director Rob Marshall ("Chicago," a 2013 Best Picture winner). Looks like a summer hit.

Rated "PG" by MPAA: action/peril and some scary images; 2:15; $ $ $ $ out of $5

Also new in theaters Friday: "About My Father," "Kandahar," "The Machine," and "You Hurt My Feelings." Streaming: "Being Mary Tyler Moore" (Max), "Blood & Gold" (Netflix), and "Wild Life" (Hulu and Disney+).

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