Seeing Disney's latest live-action remake at a theatre aboard the Disney Dream between Italy and Greece certainly enhanced my viewing experience. But Halle Bailey's show stopping performance as Ariel is what takes this remake to the top of the sea and beyond.
Blending perfect CGI, a now classic music score by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman with new songs by Menken and Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton) and the sure handed direction of Rob Marshall (Chicago, and the under-seen "Mary Poppins Returns") there's plenty of Disney magic in store for families of all ages.
The live action remakes from the Mouse House live and die by their casting, and this time out, it's nearly flawless.
Bailey delivers a star-making turn as Ariel, her opening song "Part of Your World" is an ovation worthy kickoff to the film. Javier Bardem (Skyfall, No Country for Old Men) is terrific in his non-singing role as Ariel's father, King Triton.
Daveed Diggs (Hamilton) steals every scene he's in as Sebastian. The orchestrations in "Under the Sea" fill every corner of the Dolby Atmos theatre and Diggs delivers every note-perfect punch line with style to spare. Art Malik (The Living Daylights) is perfect as Sir Grimsby, offering advise to young Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) after he's rescued by a young mystery woman in the sea.
Awkwafina (The Farewell, Renfield) brings her patented humor to Ariel's sidekick Scuttle and only Flounder (Jacob Tremblay) seems a but shortchanged in his screen time.
Melissa McCarthy is a menacing blast as Ursula, everyone's favorite evil Octopus sorceress. She has said she was terrified to try to fill the shoes of Pat Carroll from the original animated film. Pat would be proud. McCarthy nails every note of "Poor Unfortunate Souls" and manages to bring more than a tinge of danger to the role.
Virtually everyone's seen the 1989 animated original, and Marshall and team do a great job of honoring the original, while slightly tweaking it for modern times. The additional songs by Menken and Miranda, "For the First Time" and "Wild Uncharted Waters" are fine and their "Scuttlebutt" is a fun Awkwafina/Diggs rap that fits perfectly in the story before the well staged climax.
The entire "Kiss the Girl"sequence is the perfect live-action conversion from the original, embellishing the laughs, the sweetness and romance of the story. Bailey and Hauer-King have real chemistry as well.
We all knew exactly what was going to happen, but under the spell of the film, our audience loved every bit of the film, as did we.
Maybe we could all just use a bit more fun, sweet and beautiful these days. THE LITTLE MERMAID would qualify as all three, earning a surprising A.