Movie Review: The Little Mermaid and Halle Bailey Make A Big Splash

Diya Bhattacharya '25, Contributing Writer

Disney’s highly anticipated live action remake of The Little Mermaid released in theaters on Friday, May 26. The movie stars Halle Bailey playing the iconic Disney princess mermaid Ariel. Ariel in the original cartoon movie is white, while Bailey is black. For some time now, some fans of the original film took to the internet to voice their opinion that a black woman was unfit to play a once animated fictional creature. (For more information about the backlash Bailey and the movie faced, please refer to “WHS Students Comment on Conflict Surrounding Live Action Movie The Little Mermaid 2023”.)  However, this article is not to discuss the online controversy. This is a review of The Little Mermaid


Before watching the movie, I was expecting it to be okay at best. The trailers dropped in the months prior were dull. The graphics looked mediocre and the trailers did not display any of the actors’ skills. The one large redeeming factor was Bailey’s incredible voice. Along with the trailers the song Part of Your World from the original The Little Mermaid was released. Bailey’s vocal abilities are phenomenal, and I was excited to see how else Disney was going to utilize them for the movie. 


I watched The Little Mermaid the day it was released and found myself stunned. I was wrong about the graphics–the underwater world displayed in the movie was vibrant and looked almost realistic. The music score, in addition to Part of Your World, was re-made very well by the cast and Lin Manuel-Miranda (known for Moana, Hamilton, and many other projects). Prince Eric even sang a new song, Wild Uncharted Waters, which is gaining lots of traction online. 


One of the biggest changes in the new movie is Prince Eric, played by Jonah Hauer-King. He’s no longer just a handsome face; he, too, has hopes and dreams as well as a backstory. This gave a whole new meaning to the character as well as the romance between Prince Eric and Ariel. The beginning and end of the film are very eventful, and the stretch in the middle feels like a beautiful romantic-comedy about a curious mermaid turned girl and a whimsical prince. 


Of course in the original movie, the love is there, but the chemistry in the live action version between Bailey and Huaer-King made it all the more exciting to watch. One of my biggest concerns, however, was how Disney in 2023 would portray a love story between a Prince and a mute woman unfamiliar with her surroundings. To my surprise, it was executed astoundingly. Even when Ariel would not speak, Eric listened to her. He took in all of her actions and little nuances so he could communicate with her. I cannot fully describe how well Disney was able to give new life to the central plot. 


The actors of King Triton (Javier Bardem), Ursula (Melissa McCarthy), Vanessa (Jessica Alexander), and all six of Ariel’s sisters were effective in their performances, too. So did the voice actors of Sebastian (Daveed Diggs), Flounder (Jacob Tremblay), and Scuttle (Awkwafina), whose characters gave the movie some comical moments.  


But the best part of The Little Mermaid was the emotions it evoked. I myself am a woman of color, but I am not African American like Bailey. Still, the film made me tear up to see someone I could relate to playing the main character in a big scale Disney production, something that is so traditionally white. It makes you think how far we have come as it was only a few years ago Disney was coming out with poor representation for minority communities. More than that, Bailey’s own great-grandfather picked cotton as a child in South Carolina and her grandmother picked tobacco. And now their great granddaughter is starring in a big budget movie production. It’s another reason why this movie and Bailey playing the role of Ariel is very important to so many people. Overall, The Little Mermaid is a must watch.