The Little Mermaid is Disney’s best live-action remake and it’s not even close. After two viewings, I can confidentially say that it stands on its own and is distinguishable enough from its 1989 animated counterpart to warrant its existence. Rob Marshall works his magic and delivers a lively and joyful adaptation, led by the phenomenal Halle Bailey.

Halle Bailey’s phenomenal performance as Ariel makes her the true star of the show. The fact that she can sing like an angel is not surprising since she is already a multiple Grammy nominee, but she has solid acting chops too. Even though Ariel is mute for most of the film, Bailey is extraordinarily impressive in the way that she manages to convey all the emotions of her character without words. This is no easy feat for an accomplished and experienced actor, let alone a young woman in her first leading role. She has great chemistry with her co-stars, but her interactions with Jonah Hauer-King are palpable and feel very real. Simply put, Bailey has the makings of a superstar, and the camera loves her.

While Bailey’s performance elevates this film to the next level, she does not carry this film alone. The supporting cast is superb! Jonah Hauer-King was the right choice for Prince Eric (sorry Harry Styles) and he brings a surprising amount of depth to the character. Melissa McCarthy is fantastic, if not criminally underused as Ursula, and her version of ‘Poor Unfortunate Souls’ is one of the great highlights from the film. Daveed Diggs’ performance as Sebastian is my second favourite, behind Bailey, and his comedic timing is perfect. For someone doing a voice role, he really gives it his all and proves why he’s one of the most underrated talents in the industry. Awkwafina’s performance as Scuttle grew on me over time and Jacob Tremblay is excellent as Flounder. Javier Bardem, also underused, is good as Triton in his short screen time and gives us a wonderful moment that will become a meme for sure. Rob Marshall has an eye for talent and has gathered a winning ensemble for this film.

(L-R): Halle Bailey as Ariel and Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric in Disney’s live-action THE LITTLE MERMAID. Photo by Giles Keyte. © 2023 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

As for the music, all of the classics you know and love are here, and they are incredible. I can’t pick a specific one to highlight but Bailey’s vocal performance in ‘Part of Your World’ gave me chills both times I watched, and the new rendition of my favourite song, ‘Under the Sea’ was a delightful and colourful spectacle. Lin-Manuel Miranda gave us three new additions to The Little Mermaid soundtrack and, for the most part, they are very good. The first song, ‘Wild Uncharted Waters’ is a song made for Prince Eric and is easily the weakest link while ‘For the First Time’ is a very welcome addition and is objectively the best new song. However, my personal favourite song is ‘The Scuttlebutt’, a rap song for Awkwafina’s Scuttle and Daveed Digg’s Sebastian and the most Lin-Manuel Miranda song possible. I love it but I have a feeling others won’t, and it will get memed to death on TikTok.

If I had to find something wrong with this film, I would say that the CGI is very iffy at times. While not glaring like some of the recent Marvel movies, there are some instances, especially underwater, where the CG work could’ve been improved. For a film that was locked in February 2023, I wish they would have taken the extra time to fix this. I also think that this film, while generally solid, misses some beats from time to time. The film’s first act is a 1:1 remake but after that, it’s fairly different, so the bumpy pacing and lack of Disney magic is forgiven.

Melissa McCarthy as Ursula in Disney’s live-action THE LITTLE MERMAID. Photo courtesy of Disney. © 2023 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The Little Mermaid is far and away the best Disney live-action remake and despite some minor shortcomings, Rob Marshall has created more than a remake, it’s a whole new wonderful story.