HOLLYWOOD—“The Little Mermaid” has there been a movie with more controversy then this take on an animated classic? I cannot think of one at the moment, but the 2023 live-action version of “The Little Mermaid” dare I saw surprised me in the best ways. I’ve always been a fan of most animated flicks I’ve seen, but I don’t seek them out. They tend to be some of the smartest movies you’ll see with characters the audience can instantly connect with and themes that resonate.

With that said, to the people hating this flick before even watching, stop, just stop it right now. Halle Bailey is fantastic and I mean fantastic as Ariel. She is gorgeous and her voice is a true pleasure people. When Ariel starts talking your eyes fixate on her, but when she sings it breaks your heart in the most thrilling way and it was fantastic to witness. Hands down Bailey’s performance carries this flick and she is charming as hell as the mermaid that everyone is infatuated with.

Her quench to be part of the world of humans is a major catalyst of the majority of the drama in this movie. Her father, King Triton (Javier Bardem) forbids her from the journey above the sea because he has a disdain for humans whom he holds responsible for the death of his wife. He doesn’t trust them; and his preconceived notions that all humans are threats he attempts to infuse upon his daughter.

That doesn’t bode well with Ariel who continues to push the boundaries to venture to land and that is where she meets Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King), who does a solid job as the guy who captures her heart. Against her father’s wishes, Ariel travels above the sea and rescues Eric after a shipwreck that leaves him near death, but also enrages her father, who believes his daughter doesn’t respect his wishes.

It leads to a father/daughter squabble that has wicked consequences. Usher in, the wicked Melissa McCarthy as Ursula, the evil sea witch, who also happens to be King Tritons’ sister and Ariel’s aunt. McCarthy captures the visual appeal of the iconic animated character and she oozes villainy in a way that is fun, but scary to witness. I adored watching her on the big screen.

McCarthy and Bailey are solid with their performances, but you also have a standout performance from Daveed Diggs as the voice of Sebastian, that crab who is loyal to King Triton and is expected to be Ariel’s watchdog. He captures the voice, the essence of the character and just the humor of the characters so perfectly. I loved seeing Sebastian on the screen, as well as his sidekicks Flounder (voice of Jacob Tremblay), the overly cautious Flounder who happens to be Ariel’s bestie, and Scuttle (voice of Awkwafina) as a northern gannet. Scuttle could be annoying at times, but as the movie progressed I didn’t hate the character, I like the trio of Sebastian, Flounder and Scuttle, as they vibe well.

As the movie progressed, and it clocks in at 2 hours and 16 minutes, I thought it might lose steam because I don’t recall the animated version being this long, but the longer film didn’t bother me much. The visuals were solid, but they didn’t stun me like the film “Avatar: The Way of Water.” There were a few moments where I thought, wow, these visuals could and should be stronger, but I found a way to dismiss that frustration and focus on the story. The big climax had me gripped, almost as if I hadn’t seen the original in years, which is probably a good thing as a viewer.

Kids, tweens, teens, young adults, middle aged adults, seniors, this flick is for all ages and it’s enjoyable. Will it top the 1989 version? Of course not, but now you have a film that has been introduced to a new generation to those who may not have seen that classic, and they get to see something on the screen that resonates with them that they never seen before.