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Friday, Feb. 23, 2024
The Observer

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‘The Little Mermaid’ (2023) at DPAC: Making a classic film new

“The Little Mermaid” was my favorite princess movie when I was little. I think mainly because of the music. “Part of Your World” and “Under the Sea” are arguably some of the best and most well-known Disney movie songs. As “The Little Mermaid” was soundtrack of my childhood, I was equally nervous and excited when the announcement of the live-action remake was first made. I, however, was traveling over the summer and missed the cinematic premiere and never made it to the movie theaters to watch it. And without a Disney+ subscription, I never got around to it. The incredible team at DPAC, however, brought it to their screen, and I finally got to see six-time Grammy nominee Halle Bailey as my favorite princess.

The nostalgia factor is what constantly brought me back to the original Ariel, and I think that this version beautifully captures the colorful and fun nature of the story more vividly than the original, I might say. Growing up around Caribbean cultures, the 2023 version’s Caribbean-influenced music made the movie even more fun for me, and I wanted to get on my feet and dance, too. The new songs, like Eric’s “Wild Uncharted Waters” and Ariel’s new “For the First Time” added something brand new to the movie and kept me excited. Honestly, the chemistry between Halle and Jonah Hauer-King was palpable to the point where I was so invested in “Kiss the Girl” I forgot they would get interrupted. 

I’m also a fan of Melissa McCarthy, so her performance as Ursula enticed me. But “The Little Mermaid” was also my favorite because I found Ursula the least frightening of all the princesses’ villains (I still occasionally have PTSD-induced nightmares about the Evil Queen and Maleficent). I mean, at least she doesn’t try to kill Ariel on sight. The rest of the cast, especially Broadway icon Daveed Diggs as Sebastian, were so incredibly good in their roles as well. Awkwafina was obnoxiously funny and made the perfect Scuttle, Flounder was just as cute as I always thought he was and let’s just say Vanessa made me angry as she did in the original movie, too. 

I’m a little obsessed with this new one. It has the right nostalgic feel and makes for a really good comfort movie, the same way the first one did. I will say that my one qualm is that the lip-syncing in the underwater scenes was pretty blatant to me, but Bailey still sounded incredible. Even though the sets around her were basically all CGI, she did very well in the underwater scenes overall. I’ll probably return to this one just as often as I did the original, and maybe even more (As I said, that Caribbean music really got me). Thanks to DPAC for bringing this gem back, and I hope whoever hasn’t watched this version of “The Little Mermaid” gets to it soon! Making the small hike to DPAC (which I do for class) is worth it for moments like these.