In 1989, I saw a show called “Dangerous Music” written by “Dreamgirls” composer Henry Krieger. One of the stars was a young actress named Jodi Benson, who had just completed recording for a brand new Disney animated film. That film was “The Little Mermaid” and that young actress was the voice of Ariel – Jodi Benson.
When the film opened nearly a year later, it was an instant hit with young girls globally. I had a little cousin who would sit in front of the television singing “Part of That World” on repeat for hours on end. Since then, this iconic property has become a Broadway musical, NBC special with Queen Latifah as Ursula and now reimagined as a live action feature film.
Having seen every iteration, I can report that I absolutely loved it for two reasons – Halle Bailey and Melissa McCarthy. When the news was announced that Halle would be starring as Ariel, the amount of vitriol spewing on social media was ridiculously cruel. Everything from “Mermaids are not Black” to all sorts of racists and unkind comments were flying on the world wide web. Well, success is the best revenge.
Directed by Rob Marshall, all of the energy, innocence and wonderment that made audiences fall in love with Ariel and her friends still resonate, as well as, some brand new musical collaborations written by Alan Menken and Lin Manuel Miranda.
Melissa McCarthy’s slithering about belting “Poor Unfortunate Souls” with pet eels by her side is truly one of the highlights of the film. She straddles humor coupled with dripping sarcasm with perfection. Javier Bardem as King Triton is endearingly precious as the Dad wanting and needing to protect his child and realizing that at some point you have to let her live her own the life – a life that will ulitimately make her happy. After all, parents spend their entire lives ensuring the happiness of their children – don’t they? Daveed Diggs, Awkwafina and Jacob Tremblay are hilarious and bring the comic relief in spades at all the right moments literally making the audience burst into out loud laughing. Ariel (Halle Bailey) literally doesn’t speak for a good portion of this film, but her singing resonates through your soul with a purity and clear, quiet fire that could only be performed by Halle Bailey. There are not enough adjectives in the dictionary to describe how etherial and absolutely stunning she is as Ariel. She truly inhabits everything one would expect a Disney princess to inhabit onscreen and off.
As with all of Disney’s live action remakes, this one is not without it’s missteps. But audiences wont’t mind, as they walk away hopeful and inspired from the tale of a young mermaid desiring legs in order to be with her one true love. All that aside, being “under the sea” has never been so much fun!