Does 'The Little Mermaid' Live-Action Remake Live Up to the Original? Press Weighs In

Kelly Corbett - Author

May 9 2023, Published 2:26 p.m. ET

Halle Bailey as Ariel sitting on a rock in 'The Little Mermaid' 2023
Source: Disney

Disney’s live-action remake of The Little Mermaid has been a hot topic since 2019 when it was announced that singer-songwriter Halle Bailey had been cast as Ariel. This sparked controversy on the internet as some folks argued that Halle didn't accurately represent Ariel, who had been white in the original 1989 movie. But for many folks, this was a refreshing new take on a classic film.

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In addition to a new Ariel, the film's original songs "Kiss the Girl" and "Poor Unfortunate Souls" were given modern updates including lyric revisions. The film's storyline was also revisited as there were claims that the original movie promoted anti-feminist themes.

So, did the new and improved The Little Mermaid film deliver? Did the addition of these fresh elements resonate with fans? Some members of the press got early access to the film and shared their two cents. Let's take a look at reactions from members of the press.

Ariel and Prince Eric in a row boat in the live-action remake of 'The Little Mermaid'
Source: Disney
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The reactions to 'The Little Mermaid' are in — here's what critics thought.

While the film won't be released in theaters until May 26, 2023, members of the press began sharing their thoughts on Twitter following the film's Hollywood premiere on May 8, 2023.

Overall, the reviews seemed more positive than negative, but there were some disappointing aspects.

As journalist Gillian Blum wrote on Twitter: "#TheLittleMermaid is the best Disney live-action adaptation to date. Halle Bailey IS Ariel," she wrote. Gillian said she "could watch this version’s Under the Sea all day, it was the highlight of the whole thing."

But as she pointed out, there was "too much autotune" in one of the songs.

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A tweet from writer Zoe Rose Bryan noted that The Little Mermaid live-action remake "retains the heart and soul of the story we know and love," adding "it’s elevated even further by a note-perfect star-making performance from Halle Bailey."

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In a follow-up tweet, Zoe noted that Halle's chemistry with Jonah Hauer-King (who plays Prince Eric) "is so infectious and natural." But in terms of what the film could have done better, Zoe noted that the visual effects could be improved.

However, not all of the reactions were as rosy. "It's a mostly a paint by-numbers remake that's isn't as good as the animated masterpiece," opined journalist Kirsten Acuna.

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Journalist Simon Thompson felt the same, writing that the film “doesn’t deliver the magic of the animated classic. Although he mentioned that "there are plenty of creative touches from Rob Marshall to float the audience’s boats." He also noted that Daveed Diggs and Awkwafina brought comedic relief to the film.

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Writer Germain Lussier had a very matter-of-the-fact reaction to the movie. "It’s exactly what you think it is," he wrote, meaning that if you're excited about the film, you will most likely walk out satisfied. But if you're doubtful, your opinion likely won't change after the credits roll.

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Additional comments about the movie pertain to its lighting and color scheme. "The Little Mermaid movie needs more vibrant colors why does the movie look so dark and why the f--k is Ariel’s hair so brown and not red," tweeted one fan.

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