(SPOT.ph) Anyone who grew up wanting to be a princess precisely because of all the animated Disney movies of the past has very likely kept their eyes on the slew of live-action adaptations the House of Mouse has been churning out lately. Whether they enriched those memories or marred them, well, it depends on you, dear viewer. The latest to come out is The Little Mermaid—and it's still very much geared towards the once-kids who want to be a princess, just not the type to wait around in their tower, and certainly not for some sort of one-dimensional prince. Yep, enter a new Prince Eric, as played by Jonah Hauer-King.
Live-adaptation The Little Mermaid ups the bar for Disney princes too
As with all the live-action adaptations before it, The Little Mermaid gets an update visually and storywise, too. Halle Bailey and her stunning voice brought new emotions to Triton's youngest daughter; the whole family gets a stellar crew in the form of Javier Bardem as the king, and stars Lorena Andrea (Perla), Simone Ashley (Indira), Kajsa Mohammer (Karina), Nathalie Sorrell (Caspia), Karolina Conchet (Mala), and Sienna King (Tamika). We can't forget Melissa McCarthy as sea witch Ursula.
Then there's Ariel's motley support group crew: the hilarious Sebastian (voiced by Daveed Diggs), lively Scuttle (voiced by Awkwafina), and yes, the much buzzed about Flounder (Jacob Tremblay) whose a bit too true-to-life animation still unsettles, but thankfully gets drowned out in the midst of all the CG wonders.
So just how much has the adaptation changed the classic tale? If you're afraid of change, think of this as an exercise in learning that it doesn't always lead to bad things. After all, this new version has musical genius Lin-Manuel Miranda on board, too. He worked with the OG grandmaster Alan Menken—also behind other Disney classics, most relevantly the Aladdin hit "A Whole New World" sung by Lea Salonga and Brad Kane—to create new renditions of old sing-along faves "Kiss the Girl", "Part of Your World", and "Under the Sea." And because this is Lin-Manuel Miranda, new songs have come out: "The Scuttlebutt" a rap sung by Scuttle and Sebastian, and the more in-the-feels "Wild Uncharted Waters" sung by Prince Eric. Oh, yes, he gets his own number in this one.
The first part of the adaptation follows pretty much true to the original, with the exception of the littlest bit more participation from the sea sisters. It's when Prince Eric starts to belt out his own ballad-style song while dramatically walking around the coast of his kingdom that it hits: this isn't The Little Mermaid story you grew up with. This bit comes fittingly right at the turn of the story, after Ariel has saved him from watery doom and is now being led right into the sea witch's arms. As that's happening though, the story takes the opportunity as well to righfully take the 2D Prince Eric character from one-dimensional to three-dimensional, in all sense of the term.
2D Prince Eric and his rich head of hair was arguably already one of the livelier princes from Disney's golden age. He had more personality than Aurora's Prince Philip and far more screen time than Snow White's prince (did he even have a name?). This new version, complete with puppy-dog eyes, has more of a backstory, upping the stakes and giving us far more reason to believe he and Ariel actually make a good a match (and he's worth the sacrifice). They're both struggling with their responsibilities, much prefer having a good time, and have entire rooms dedicated to their collection of junk—sorry, the inner Triton came out, we mean, whosits and whatsits galore.
Much of Eric's character development (from 2D to 3D) comes from the fact that there's a queen in this one; a completely original character, Queen Selina is played by Noma Dumezweni. A big part of the Prince's struggles here (yes, he has his own outside of the search for his mysterious rescuer) stem from, of course, his lineage (he's adopted, but that's glossed over) and the expectations of him being royal. There's far more to the prince in this one, and he and Ariel ride over their story arcs together in a joyous, part-CGI, part IRL, wholly entertaining musical ride.
Enriching Prince Eric's story for the live-action adaptation allowed for much stronger world-building when it came to his kingdom—a lively Carribean-esque coastal town that wouldn't be out of place in a Lin-Manuel Miranda x Disney world. Sidenote: As they had shifted the focus from Atlantis to this land, we did of course have to see less of under the sea. Most of the underwater world is implied, especially with the roles of the sisters being connected to the different seas; Atlantis is not quite as lustrous as we remember. Still, it helps us to understand why the story is as it is, and makes it more believable. We're all for the age of "He's just a Ken," sure, and while it's still Ariel that truly shines in the live-action, we're glad to see the prince get the update he deserves, too.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 spots
The Little Mermaid is now showing in Philippine cinemas.