The Little Mermaid Remake Reviews: Critics Share Strong First Reactions

By Klein Felt Posted:
Little Mermaid Remake, Halle Bailey

Disney's live-action Little Mermaid remake is here, and critics are finally able to share their reactions before this aquatic adventure hits theater screens worldwide. 

The retelling of this beloved animated classic sees a whole new cast take on this below-the-sea blockbuster, including Halle Bailey playing the titular mermaid, Ariel. 

However, not all will be exactly as it was back when The Little Mermaid originally came to theaters in 1989, with some notable changes being made to modernize the film

Early feedback on the movie has been mostly positive with test screenings reportedly calling Bailey "wonderful" in the film's star. 

First Reactions to The Little Mermaid


The first reactions from critics of The Little Mermaid have been made public after the film's Hollywood premiere. 

Kirsten Acuna from Insider called the live-action remake "mostly paint-by-numbers" highlighted by "a few great performances:"

"'The Little Mermaid' is filled with a few great performances from Halle Bailey and Melissa McCarthy, but it's a mostly paint-by-numbers remake that's isn't as good as the animated masterpiece."

Film critic Courtney Howard shared a similar sentiment, noting the film is "charming," but "incredibly spotty:"

"'The Little Mermaid': Charming, but incredibly spotty. Halle Bailey, Jonah Hauer-King, Melissa McCarthy & Javier Bardem put their heart & souls into a film that can’t escape its animated legacy. Best when it leans into campy bonkers, yet limits its fantasy elements for no reason."

The film is "endearing but uneven" according to Simon Thompson:

"Endearing but uneven, 'The Little Mermaid' doesn’t deliver the magic of the animated classic but there are plenty of creative touches from Rob Marshall to float the audience’s boats. Halle Bailey and Melissa McCarthy are great. Daveed Diggs and Awkwafina provide solid comic relief."

The Direct's very own Gillian Blum was a little more positive, heralding it as the "best Disney live-action adaptation to date:"

"'The Little Mermaid' is the best Disney live-action adaptation to date. Halle Bailey IS Ariel. Major props to the sound effects team. Good changes, though one new song with too much autotune. Could watch this version’s 'Under the Sea' all day, it was the highlight of the whole thing."

Zoe Rose Bryant from We Live Entertainment remarked that the remake "retains the heart and soul of the story we know and love" and is "elevated even further by a note-perfect star-making performance from Halle Bailey:"

"'The Little Mermaid' is a live-action remake that retains the heart and soul of the story we know and love, and it’s elevated even further by a note-perfect star-making performance from Halle Bailey - she was born to be on the big screen, & she’s why this new take is worth watching."

Bryant added that "Bailey’s chemistry with Jonah Hauer-King is so infectious" and, while the VFX are not always perfect, they are "FAR better than some subpar trailers:"

"Halle Bailey’s chemistry with Jonah Hauer-King is so infectious and natural and a huge highpoint for the film, while Melissa McCarthy devours every second of her screen time. The VFX aren’t always perfect, but FAR better than some subpar trailers would lead you to believe tbh."

Gizmodo's Germain Lussier put his review in simple terms, noting if fans are "excited for The Little Mermaid," then will "like it:"

"It’s real simple. Are you excited for 'The Little Mermaid'? You’ll like it. It’s exactly what you think it is. Are you skeptical and worried about it? That’s valid too. It looks weird and disjointed. Bailey is great, McCarthy rules, the songs work but it just feels so unnecessary."

Bringing up Mellissa McCarthy's villainous Ursula, David Howat from Next Best Picture joked that the Bridesmaids actress is "having the time of her life" in The Little Mermaid:

"Halle Bailey is wonderful, elevating everything around her. Even while mute, she’s just as magnetic. And Melissa McCarthy is having the time of her life. Excellent casting all around."

And Erik Davis from Fandango opined that the film is "definitely one of the better live-action adaptions" from Disney:"

"Disney’s 'The Little Mermaid' is definitely one of the better live-action adaptions. Halle Bailey pours incredible emotion into Ariel and I got chills watching her, while Melissa McCarthy’s Ursula and Daveed Diggs’ Sebastian steal scenes all day."

Will The Little Mermaid Remake Succeed?

The business of these live-action remakes from Disney has been one with ups and downs. For every Jungle Book, there are just as many Dumbo's. So, where on the scale does The Little Mermaid fall? 

Well, that is a complicated question. To put it into simplest terms this latest retelling of an animated classic looks to be good, but not great. 

Every single review seemed to have its criticisms, but none were without praise as well. 

The biggest win from these early reactions looks to be Halle Bailey's take on the iconic Ariel character. When a big-screen blockbuster can rest on the shoulders of what seems to be such a stellar performance, audiences are going to have at least a decent time. 

While seemingly not hitting the heights of the animated original, The Little Mermaid remake looks to have at least, in part, succeeded in updating that classic for the modern day. 

The Little Mermaid comes to theaters on Friday, May 26. 

- In This Article: The Little Mermaid
Release Date
May 26, 2023
Halle Bailey
- About The Author: Klein Felt
Klein Felt is a Senior Editor at The Direct. Joining the website back in 2020, he helped jumpstart video game content on The Direct. Klein plays a vital role as a part of the site's content team, demonstrating expertise in all things PlayStation, Marvel, and the greater entertainment industry.