“The youngest of King Triton’s daughters, Ariel, is a beautiful and spirited young mermaid with a thirst for adventure. Longing to find out more about the world beyond the sea, Ariel visits the surface and falls for the dashing Prince Eric. Following her heart, she makes a deal with the evil sea witch, Ursula, to experience life on land.”

While I do enjoy a good Disney film, and I do regularly use their streaming service, I am far from a huge Disney fan. I find theirs, and others, needs for constant remakes or reboots irritating. Yet something about this one intrigued me from the get go. I can’t remember when I last watch the animated version, and it’s been well over 30 years since I read the original story. Yet here I was, happily sat front row for the Mouse’s newest ‘life-action’ offering.

Up to this point, the live action remakes/reboots from the company have been spotty. Other than Cruella (and even that was close), I haven’t enjoyed the remakes. I have just found them poorly made, badly written, or just NOT live action, Lion King I’m looking at you here….it was just differently animated. It wasn’t ‘live-action’. With this film though the House of Mouse may have bucked the trend.

With four perfectly cast actors in the main roles of Ariel, Triton, Eric, and Ursula, they have given us a live action adaptation that pays homage to the original yet feels fresh at the same time. It isn’t a full shot for shot remake but when it was it was delightful and spoke perfectly to my inner child. The scene on the rock with the wave crashing behind Ariel legitimately had me giddily clapping my hands. Throughout the film there were several moments that sent a ripple of laughter through the audience, and at the end a good portion of the viewers were clapping. It is an entrancing movie that will reignite a sense of childlike wonder in your head, even if only while in the cinema.

Halle Bailey, as Ariel, was exquisite. Her voice is so beautiful, and the changes made to some of the songs she sang were smooth and fitted the film perfectly. Her Ariel was a strong yet naive young woman, and she was fabulous in a role that is so iconic to so many people. I really enjoyed her performance, and I look forward to whatever she does next.

Now I need to be honest here….when I first heard that Melissa Mccarthy was going to be in this film as Ursula, I was disappointed. I don’t like her. I genuinely cannot think of a film of hers that I have sat through and enjoyed. She’ll never read this, but I’d like to apologise to her now. I was wrong. You were perfectly cast as the vile sea witch, and I don’t say that to be mean or sarcastic. She brought out the malevolence of one of the most putrid Disney villains in a perfect way that I just did not expect. She was brilliant, and her version of Poor Unfortunate Souls was perfectly pitched to highlight the two-faced vindictive nature of the character while still trying hard to elicit a little sympathy. It didn’t work Melissa you were horrible. Thank you.

Eric, played by Jonah Hauer-King, could have been played by Harry Styles, and I have to thank the casting director for NOT doing that. Hauer-King’s Prince is a man of the people that is loved and respected, as well as a man out of place looking for his own direction. It was a delightful performance and easily the most believable of the main four. As for King Triton? The big fish of the seas, the king of the underwater folks, and a tough grumpy fella with a little nugget of gold in his heart? I honestly cannot think of anyone else that would have fit it as well as Javier Bardem. Bravo, sir….

But it’s not all seashells and shiny rocks. Some of the CGI was lacking, in design as well as quality…..to me at least. I totally understand why Flounder and Sebastian couldn’t look like they did in the animation. They were going for a more realistic vibe, and that’s great, but the artistic choices for these characters were not well made. I definitely think they could have put more effort, or thought, into them. The worst CGI ‘culprit’ for me was Ursula in her giant final form. It just didn’t look good and, while it didn’t pull me out of the story, it certainly didn’t add any more depth to the big climactic scene.

Overall, this is a really solid release from Disney and, again for me, easily the best live action adaptation of an animated classic. It has its issues, but it’s a decent movie that I genuinely found myself enjoying immensely. It’s getting a solid 7/10 with a recommendation to everyone to give it a go. Hopefully Disney have turned a corner with these adaptations, but let’s see what they do with the angry blue alien…

Simon Henderson