Review: Great cast highlights fun but unnecessary Disney remake of ‘The Little Mermaid’

Halle Bailey in The Little Mermaid (Walt Disney Pictures)

Disney’s latest re-imagining of an animated classic “The Little Mermaid” is a well-made, entertaining film with an excellent cast, but after watching it, my big question is exactly who this movie was for?

Disney makes movies for families. Ideally those films are ones that kids and adults will adore together, and if not that, at least one that will interest the tykes enough to stay in their seats and one that teens and adults can at least stomach.

On that measure, I’m not exactly sure “The Little Mermaid” hit that sweet spot.

At 2 hours and 15 minutes, the movie didn’t exactly swim swiftly by. If I felt the run time dragging, I’m guessing kids and parents will too.

Some of the CGI animation proved to be more murky than I believe was intended, even for a film in which parts take place “Unda da Sea.”

While the film did interject a few new songs, worked a bit on thickening Price Eric’s part, and delved slightly deeper into Ariel and his relationship, that window dressing didn’t justify the effort that had to go into making this film in my mind. If you’re going to work that hard, wouldn’t a story that hadn’t been done before whether animated, live-action, or a combination have been better?

Now, it’s been a while since I watched Disney’s 1989 animated version of “The Little Mermaid,” but not long enough that anything in this film took me by surprise. I felt like I had been here before and wondered why I was devoting even more time to the same old story.

Now, that’s not to say my time watching latest version of “The Little Mermaid” was unpleasant. It wasn’t. I just wish I could have seen it with fresh eyes, or maybe if what was presented had been significantly different from the original. This was just a rehash.

As for the movie, the story is, of course, about Ariel, a young mermaid, who falls in love with the human prince Eric, and is then tempted by Ursula, the sea witch, to give up her fish tail and lovely singing voice to be human. Her hope is to develop a relationship the prince.

Though I did feel the length of the movie, director Rob Marshall paced the film fairly well. While some of the CGI was muddy, the majority of it was quite good.

The cast, led by the thoroughly enchanting Halle Bailey as Ariel, was sharp and imminently watchable. Bailey has the makings of a super star with a magnificent voice and an exotic look that combines powerfully on the big screen.

Hauer-King is out-shinned as Eric by Bailey’s nearly magical performance, but no young leading man comes to mind that wouldn’t have been.

Melissa McCarthy was stronger than I expected as Ursula, which is key to the drama of the film. She is wicked and entertaining. Javier Bardeem doesn’t fair as well as King Triton, Ariel’s father, but the role isn’t as meaty.

The voice acting of Jacob Tremblay and Awkwafina as Ariel’s CGI friends Flounder the fish and Scuttle the sea gull are fun, but Daveed Digs’ voice work as Sebastian the singing crab is the standout of the three.

On the whole, this version of “The Little Mermaid” was a fun time at the movie, despite being a bit long in the tooth and basically a re-tread of the original.

If you have kids, seeing it likely will be a very enjoyable trip to the movie theater, particularly if you or they have somehow avoided seeing the original.

If you are a dyed-in-the-wool Disney fan, you may love it or be indifferent to it, but you will most certainly will enjoy comparing it to the original like I did.

(PG) 2 hr. 15 min.
Grade: B

New in Local Theaters – May 26, 2023

The Little Mermaid (PG) 2 hr. 15 min. (trailer)(AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle, Malco Towne, Skylight)
The Machine (R) 1 hr. 53 min. (trailer)(AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle)
About My Father (PG-13) 1 hr. 30 min. (trailer)(AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Towne)
You Hurt My Feelings (R) 1 hr. 33 min. (trailer)(AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback)
Kandahar (R) 2 hr. (trailer)(AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle)

Midweek at The Malco

June 7 — Sing 2
June 14 — The Boss Baby: Family Business
June 21 — The Croods: A New Age
June 28 — Trolls World Tour
July 5 — Minions: The Rise of Gru
July 12 — The Secret Life of Pets
July 19 — Shrek 2
July 26 — The Bad Guys

Check the Malco website weekly for the showing times of each film.

Christmas-movie TV stars to visit Overland Park, Kan.

While it is mathematically closer to Christmas 2022 than it is to Christmas 2023, Christmas Con is coming to the Overland Park (Kan.) Convention Center on June 9-11

If you are already jonesing for a little bit of Christmas the event is a three-hour drive from Northwest Arkansas. Advance tickets may be purchased on

The event features celebrity guests who have starred in made-for-television Christmas movies that populate certain cable channels from Halloween to New Year’s Day each year as well as some popular V series.

Fans have the opportunity to buy autographs and photos of the guests as well as enjoy musical performances and question-and-answer panels from the stars.

Actors scheduled to attend the event include Barbara Eden, Melissa Joan Hart, Cameron Mathison, Danica McKellar, Kristoffer Polaha, Autumn Reeser, Ashley Williams, Alicia Witt, Jesse Metcalfe, and Brooke D’Orsay among others.

There is also a vendor room where artists, craftsmen and retailers of all stripes will be selling their Christmas- and holiday-themed creations.

TBS offers Memorial Day Weekend Salute

A Walk in the Sun

» Watch trailer

To commemorate Memorial Day, Turner Classic Movies begins its annual war movie marathon at 7 p.m. Friday, with the classic “A Walk in the Sun,” It’s followed by more than 30 films that primarily focus on the sacrifices made by U.S. soldiers throughout our nation’s history.

“A Walk in the Sun” debuted just a few months after the conclusion of World War II on Dec. 3, 1945, and it tells the story of an infantry platoon that lands on the beaches of Italy and pursues a mission to take control of a farmhouse where they will then stage an effort to destroy a nearby bridge. Dana Andrews, Richard Conte, and Lloyd Bridges star.

The film is a sincere but somewhat melodramatic depiction of war, which befit the time in which it was released.

The Dirty Dozen

» Watch trailer

Released 22 years later in 1967, “The Dirty Dozen,” starring Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, John Cassavetes, Donald Sutherland, and others is a much more cynical and irreverent film that delineates many of the changes America went through in the mid to late 1960s.

Though both films depict clandestine military efforts, “The Dirty Dozen” operation is a a suicide mission conducted primarily by military prisoners, who aren’t exactly on the same page. Both are excellent examples of war films, but the themes couldn’t be more different. “The Dirty Dozen” plays at 12:30 p.m. Monday.