The Little Mermaid | Picturehouse Recommends

Bringing the underwater musical classic to the surface.

Hannah Flint

26 May 23

Rob Marshall

Release Date
26 May

Starring Halle Bailey, Jonah Hauer-King, Daveed Diggs, Awkwafina, Jacob Tremblay, Noma Dumezweni, Art Malik, Javier Bardem, Melissa Mccarthy 


Running Time
135 mins

The Little Mermaid will soon be part of our world again – the live-action world, that is – and it's set to be a fantastical life aquatic. Following in the footsteps of such box office-topping Disney renaissance remakes like Cinderella, Beauty And The Beast and Aladdin, Rob Marshall (Chicago, Mary Poppins Returns) is bringing the underwater musical classic to the surface with an ocean full of CGI magic and a brand spanking new cast to delight audiences young and old. 

Adapted from both the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale of 1837 and the Oscar-winning 1989 animated feature, the new film will retell the coming-of-age story of the eponymous mermaid, Ariel, with newbie Halle Bailey sporting the iconic green tail and purplish bikini of her 2D counterpart.

It's a landmark moment for more inclusive representation in blockbuster filmmaking to have a new Black female protagonist for girls around the world to look up to. It also marks the first leading role for the multi-talented Bailey; the American singer-songwriter is one-half of the acclaimed sister-pop duo Chloe x Halle, with whom she impressively starred in the comedy series Grown-ish for four seasons. 

As the adventurous youngest daughter of King Triton, she will defy her father's rule against fraternising with humans by signing a life-changing deal with the sea witch Ursula.

If Disney movies have taught us anything, it's not to trust an evil witch (at least not one without a prequel origin story), so while Ariel might ditch her voice and tail for a pair of legs to dwell on dry land, the consequences for herself and her father's kingdom could be dire. 

Previous Disney princess reimaginings have offered a more contemporary feminist flair and The Little Mermaid will be no different; the spirited Ariel's motivations to explore the world outside the confines of her father's kingdom won't be just about falling in love and getting married. 

"I'm really excited for my version of the film because we've definitely changed that perspective of just her wanting to leave the ocean for a boy," Bailey told Edition magazine. "It's way bigger than that. It's about herself, her purpose, her freedom, her life and what she wants." 

There will still be a boy to swoon over, of course. Prince Eric will be played by another relative newcomer, the British actor Jonah Hauer-King (A Dog's Way Home), who fits the charming, dark-haired love interest to a T.

The rest of the live-action cast is rounded out by Javier Bardem as King Triton, Art Malik as Sir Grimsby and Noma Dumezweni as Ariel's mother Queen Selina. Then there's the inimitable Melissa McCarthy playing the iconic Ursula. "She is delicious," says McCarthy. "And she's so dishy and conniving, and yet I still always feel for her because she's the outcast, and she didn't start off bad. My goal was to create a villain you can love and despise at the same time." 

It wouldn't be a Disney movie without a few animal sidekicks and the OG gang of Flounder, Sebastian and Scuttle will be voiced by Jacob Tremblay, Daveed Diggs and Awkwafina, respectively.

And never fear, Howard Ashman and Alan Menken's original bangers, like Part Of Your World, Under The Sea and Kiss The Girl, are all there, albeit with a few new lyrics penned by executive producer and musical maestro of the moment, Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Will The Little Mermaid capture our poor unfortunate souls like it did 30 years ago? Sea for yourself at Picturehouse!   Hannah Flint

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