Disney’s The Little Mermaid surfaces in theaters over this Memorial weekend and it hopes to dominate the box office like the Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King live-action versions did. Rob Marshall, Oscar-winning director of Chicago who recently helmed Mary Poppins Returns, is behind the camera. Halle Bailey stars as Ariel with Melissa McCarthy, Jonah Hauer-King, Daveed Diggs, Awkwafina, Jacob Tremblay, Noma Dumezweni, and Javier Bardem among the supporting players.
The musical fantasy is, of course, a remake of 1989’s classic that won Oscars for Score and Original Song (“Under the Sea”). Another tune (“Kiss the Girl”) was also in contention. 34 years ago, Best Animated Feature didn’t exist at the Academy Awards. If it had, Mermaid almost certainly would’ve won (unless you think All Dogs Go to Heaven might have managed a shocking upset).
Could this Mermaid swim into contention for the 96th ceremony? Over the past decade, several efforts in this sub-genre have been nominated in different races. 2015’s Cinderella was up for its Costume Design. 2016’s The Jungle Book won Visual Effects. The following year it was Beauty and the Beast mentioned in Costume Design and Production Design. The Lion King in 2019 received a Visual Effects nod and 2021’s Cruella won Costume Design and contended in Makeup and Hairstyling.
Reviews for Mermaid are mixed with a 69% Rotten Tomatoes score. That’s better than The Lion King (52%) for example but nowhere near Jungle Book (94%). Some of the criticism is for its visual look and I’m skeptical it places among the final five. I’m also not feeling the love in the other aforementioned categories.
Original Song could be the saving grace. There are three new ditties in the remake with Bailey performing the ballad “For the First Time”. I would think it would be the track that the Mouse Factory campaigns for.
A lot of critics are praising Bailey herself. I highly doubt she is a possibility for Best Actress at the Oscars. However, a nom in Musical/Comedy at the Golden Globes is doable depending on the competition in the next few months. My Oscar Prediction posts will continue…