The Little Mermaid early reactions praise Halle Bailey’s “sheer magic” turn as Ariel

Eleni Thomas
The Little Mermaid early reactions header

Early reactions for the upcoming live-action adaptation of The Little Mermaid are in, with audiences praising lead actor Halle Bailey’s performance as Ariel, with others calling the film “charming” yet “spotty” at times.

In recent years, Disney has found major success in turning some of its most beloved animated classics into live-action spectacles. First, there was Cinderella, followed quickly by Beauty and the Beast as well as Aladdin. Now, however, Disney is set to release its live-action take on another classic animated feature, The Little Mermaid

Set to release on May 26, fans are eagerly anticipating the adaptation, in large part due to the iconic musical numbers and stunning visuals that have already been shown through trailers and early footage.

The Little Mermaid stars Halle Bailey as Ariel. To round off the cast, juggernaut stars such as Javier Bardem and Awkwafina also feature, as well as the comedy superstar Melissa McCarthy taking on the iconic role of the villain Ursula.

Rob Marshall is directing the film, which draws heavy inspiration from the original 1989 classic while also offering up a more modern take on the story. As mentioned above, the music is one of the biggest draw-cards of The Little Mermaid

Alan Menken returned for the live-action project to reimagine his score, with Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda also coming in to help write four new original tracks for the adaptation. 

Early reactions for The Little Mermaid highlight Halle Bailey’s performance as Ariel

While the movie is coming ashore later in May, early reactions to the film are already bubbling up to the surface following the world premiere. So far, the reactions are mostly positive, however, some critics are calling out the film for being inconsistent and “spotty” at times.

However, one that thing almost every early reaction has mentioned is the great work that leading actor Bailey allegedly does as Ariel. When Bailey was first cast in the role, she was hit with major backlash from many people online, with plenty of racially-charged comments in the mix.

Bailey herself has spoken out about the racism she faced when being cast and saying “As a black person you expect it’ and that ‘it’s not a shock anymore”.

Based on these early reviews, it appears she has well and truly silenced the naysayers.

 Erik Davis, who is best known for his work across Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes, wrote on Twitter that “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.”

On the other side of the coin, another Twitter user who attended the premiere called the film “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.”

Time will tell how the larger audience reacts to the film when The Little Mermaid debuts in theaters later this month. For all the latest TV and movie news and updates, be sure to check out Dexerto’s full coverage here.