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The Little Mermaid review: Halle Bailey makes a winning splash

Sure, the waterworks are impressive but it's Bailey's presence and voice that steals the show in this Disney live-action remake.

Disney has called us under the sea once again in its live action remake of The Little Mermaid, and the film brings a slightly different essence to the 1989 original.

Directed by Rob Marshall, it features striking visuals of the ocean and its critters, an element Disney has been fond of in recent films such as Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. The music brings both a strong sense of nostalgia from beloved classics like ‘Part of Your World’, and a fresh energy from the new tracks developed by EGOT winner Alan Menken and Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Read: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever review – a triumphant epic of loss

There’s no doubt that Halle Bailey (Ariel) is the star of this film. Bailey’s Ariel is groundbreaking as she not only introduces another Black Disney princess, but she does so with a hairstyle that reflects the beauty and versatility of Black hair.

In keeping Bailey’s locs, even in its CGI form, the film conveys a subtle yet powerful message about the beauty of diversity. Rather than sticking to the bright red hair Ariel had in the original, this remake used Bailey’s natural beauty.

Bailey’s renditions of the film’s original and newer songs are the most captivating part of the film. Her ability to convey Ariel’s longing for the world above the sea through her voice is enchanting. For those who don’t know, Bailey is one half of the music duo Chloe x Halle, who are signed to Beyoncé s label Parkwood Entertainment.

She has already proven her singing chops in the music industry and now in film, her vocal talent has soared even higher, dispelling any doubt as to why she was selected as the iconic Disney princess.

Controversy

Long before the film’s release, controversy surrounded Bailey’s casting in the remake, with many people not wanting a Black woman to play Ariel. But Director Rob Marshall told Deadline Hollywood that:

We saw everybody, but it was hers. It had nothing to do with anything exterior. It had everything to do with the interior – what she brings to it, the beauty, the passion, the fierceness, the vulnerability, the joy, the heart. Everything that she has was what we were looking for with Ariel.

The film also stars Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric and Jacob Tremblay as Flounder, who does an admirable job as the iconic characters. But it was fellow Hamilton alum Daveed Diggs’ performance as Sebastian that was the true standout supporting act, keeping true to Sebastian’s loyalty and classic humour soadeptly that you could overlook his realistic crab features.

That’s the biggest challenge for Disney: balancing the adorable characters in their cartoon form with their more realistic counterparts in the live-action remakes. But once you’re able to overlook the difference, you can continue to immerse yourself in the story.

Other well-known names rounded out the film’s supporting cast including Melissa McCarthy (Ursula), Akwafina (Scuttle), Javier Bardem (King Triton), Art Malik (Sir Grimsby) and Noma Dumezweni (Queen Selina). Overall, the film is a joy both for the young and young at heart. It’s stunning visually and an easy watch, sprinkled with light humour and pleasant nostalgia.

Still, the question of whether we need any more Disney classics turned into live action films remains. And regardless of whether you’re a fan of the remakes, one thing is for sure, Disney is sticking with it.

The Little Mermaid is in cinemas now.