The Little Mermaid is a movie that I’ve carried with me for my whole life. I can’t remember the first time that I watched it . . . it must have been as a two-year-old on the VCR in living room, embraced by the blue-gray arms of the La-Z-Boy. So perhaps writing a review of this movie is unfair in a way. I’m certainly filtering it through the lens of nostalgia.
By way of review, there’s not much to say that hasn’t been said. The Little Mermaid is gorgeously animated, the songs are catchy, and the plot and pacing are sprightly. This movie is good enough to have resurrected Disney’s animation empire after decades of decline. It won two Oscars.
Watching the movie as a kid, The Little Mermaid was a beautiful fantasy. My guess is that you couldn’t get a little girl near a body of water without a reenactment breaking out. I seriously considered becoming a mermaid when I grew up.
It turns out that there are in fact a handful of professional mermaid gigs in the United States.
For adult audiences, The Little Mermaid presents some food for thought and entertainment. Ursula’s vampy, campy brand of evil, performed with oodles of moxie by Pat Carroll, draws from Divine’s drag performances. Ursula oozes through her lair, winking at the audience over her Faustian deals and feminine wiles. King Triton is actually doing his best to protect and discipline his teenage daughter, and is in fact an old softy under all of the yelling. Ariel is scrappy and adventurous, but learns no lesson from her risky choices and gets a fairytale ending handed to her by her pops. Prince Philip, in an interesting inversion of cinematic gender roles, is almost an empty character and more of a plot device to allow for Ariel’s growth as a character.
The Little Mermaid as a whole is entertaining. The music is catchy and fun, the animation is luscious. I can recommend this movie in good faith to anyone looking for a break from Frozen . . . but you might check in with your kids about things like consequences of your actions and expectations about romantic relationships.
12 thoughts on “The Little Mermaid (1989)”
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