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The Little Mermaid first reactions praise Halle Bailey as a ‘perfect’ Ariel

Nicole Vassell

Tue, May 9, 2023 at 1:13 AM PDT


The first reactions to The Little Mermaid are in – and it looks as if Disney has another hit on its hands.

Halle Bailey as Ariel in The Little Mermaid (Disney / Getty)

After years of anticipation, the live-action remake of the 1989 animated original had its Los Angeles premiere on Monday evening (8 May).

Singer and actor Halle Bailey portrays Ariel, the lead character. Other names in the ensemble cast include Melissa McCarthy as Ursula, Javier Bardem as King Triton, Daveed Diggs as Sebastian and Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric.

While most will have to wait another couple of weeks before watching, early audiences gave their feedback on social media and in person after the screening.

Jodi Benson, who voiced Ariel in the animated version, shared her delight with the film in a red-carpet interview with Entertainment Tonight.

“[Halle Bailey] doesn’t need any advice from me, she’s brilliant!” she said with a large grin. After praising Bailey’s “purity of heart, vulnerability and bravery” in the role, Benson added: “I’m so thrilled for her, and I’m so proud of her.”

Writer Zoe Rose Bryant was similarly appreciative of Bailey’s turn as the curious sea creature. She tweeted: “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, and she’s why this new take is worth watching.”

Big Screen Leaks called the film “fantastic” while praising director Rob Marshall for his work in creating “one of Disney’s best live-action remakes and a joyful theatrical experience”.

The review platform continued: “@HalleBailey is PERFECT as #Ariel and is the heart of the movie. It’s an ENCHANTING journey under the sea I can’t wait to rewatch!”

Critic Grace Randolph was impressed with the film and hinted that audiences should try to see the film in the cinema when they have the chance.

The Little Mermaid is Disney’s best live-action adaptation, in that it succeeds not just as nostalgia but as an often stunning film in its own right. Not PERFECT, but it’s got the Disney magic! And should definitely be seen on the big screen,” she wrote.

Erik Davis, a contributor to film sites Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes, also praised Bailey’s performance, as well as shouting out McCarthy and Diggs’s work.

“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,” he tweeted.

The Little Mermaid will be released in cinemas on Friday 26 May.

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