A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 78 – The Little Mermaid (Disney)

The Little Mermaid (Disney) – May 17th, 2010

Let’s get something out of the way right up front: I have issues with Disney. I could go into them, but you know what? They’re my issues and they’re largely a matter of taste. Sure, I think their adaptations of folktales and fairytales are sugarcoated and have the sharp corners padded with thick foam and that puts me off a lot, especially in something like this story, which doesn’t have a happy ending in its original form, but like I said, that’s taste. And there’s a lot of singing, but again, taste. I just usually avoid most Disney movies. There’s one I love (I’m saving it for a really rough day), but mostly I just steer clear so I don’t get my rant on about things other people love and adore.

My real problem with this movie isn’t that it’s an adaptation. I’ll get to how I’m dealing with that. My problem is that what might have been tolerable once or twice, and is in reality a very well crafted movie, was thoroughly ruined for me by overdose. I did a good deal of babysitting as a teenager and my most frequent charge was a little girl who lived across the street. She was a sweet little kid and she liked me and we got on just fine. But she had this thing about this movie and Mary Poppins. Whichever one she was into at the time would be watched twice a night at least and on while she fell asleep. So I’ve now seen this and Mary Poppins way way way more than I ever would have on my own. So it’s not that this isn’t a good movie, it’s that only a few parts of it are to my taste to begin with and they aren’t enough to make me enjoy having seen it over a hundred times all the way through.

Watching this tonight I noticed that about half the movie was rather enjoyable to me. The time in between my last viewing and now probably helped there. But then Ariel sang Part of Your World and I sighed. And then Ursula sang Poor Unfortunate Souls and I was happy again, because I’ve got to admit, Ursula’s a great villain and I do love how she’s animated. So it kept going like that. A part I liked, then a part that made me remember every single viewing with an obsessed four year old who knew every line and could probably have put on a one kid show. It’s frustrating.

Positives: The animation really is beautiful. It’s a lovely movie, visually speaking. Ursula, as I mentioned, is a fantastic villain. It’s got Rene Auberjonois. A couple of the musical numbers are still fun, despite my overdose. And it makes a decent transformative work. Now, I also have some issues with the original Hans Christian Anderson version of the story, but the sharp corners and sour notes in that one? Where the mermaid princess is given legs, but every step feels like she’s walking on knives? Where true love doesn’t conquer all and she sacrifices herself and turns into seafoam? Yeah, I like those parts. They’re not sweet and cute and G-rated. But the world is full of retellings. It’s full of folktales and fairytales that changed depending on who told them. I don’t have to like every version. No one has to. There’s always something about a story that makes you go “If I told that, I’d change this one part.” Or more than one part. So if I’d been retelling the story, I’d probably have kept in the knives and the seafoam, but changed something else. Obviously, Disney wanted to make a cute movie for kids that could get an inexplicable G rating despite the rather bawdy nature of several parts and the fact that the mermaids are pretty much all wearing less than string bikinis.

I can cope. I probably won’t put this in again of my own volition, but I’ve got no problem with Andy or anyone else watching it and enjoying it. Just don’t expect me to love it, please. I’ve now seen it one hundred and one times. I think if I was going to love it, I’d know by now.

May 17, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Little Mermaid

May 17, 2010

The Little Mermaid

I have a great fondness for this movie. (Which explains why it is in our collection in spite of my wife’s general disdain for all things Disney.) Way back when this movie first came out on VHS my parents bought it for my little sister to give her something to watch while we were on vacation in Maine (as I recall.) This would be right around the time I was graduating from high school. (Man, I thought the movie was older than that. But I suppose that makes sense – I saw Aladdin at the Mann Theater in Hollywood on on it’s debut night so I must have been in college when these next-generation Disney animated movies were coming out.) Anyhow – vacation with my family in Maine. I poo-poohed this movie of course. Partly because I was far too old for such things. Partly because it was such a girlie thing. But mostly because of the quality of Disney movies that came out prior to this in the theaters as I was growing up.

I grew up during the down years of Disney. The theatrical Disney releases of my youth were of a far lower quality than the films of the nineties. Look at the animation of The Aristocats (which came out a couple years before I was born) or Robin Hood (which came out in 1973 and is one of my wife’s favorite Disney movies.) The animation in these films is barely a step above Saturday morning fare. Lots of recycled animation frames and very basic looking backgrounds. I was part of a test screening for The Fox and the Hound (which has NOT aged well in the intervening years I can tell you!) And as a big fan of Lloyd Alexander in my youth I was POWERFULLY disappointed in the antics of The Black Cauldron. Oh, and I completely forgot The Rescuers, which introduced me to the comedy stylings of Bob Newhart and terrified me as a child with the tidal pit. Oliver & Company was thought by some to be the last gasp of a dying genre – the Disney animated feature film was all but dead.

So those were my expectations when I sat down to watch this with my sister Betsy. With such a low bar set for the movie I was blown away. The animation is a major step up. I mean MAJOR! There’s a lot of waves and effects and such. There’s huge crowds of fish swimming around. Hardly any recycled animation at all. All the characters seem like flowing, living creatures, and not like paper cut-outs. There’s even some rudimentary CGI in the ship at the beginning and the palace steps near the start of the third act. The music of course was catchy and fun. The “Kiss the Girl” number is still magical to this day. And it didn’t hurt that Ariel is H.O.T. hot. Damn.

I know Amanda will have a lot to say a lot about the pretty radical “adaptation” from the Hans Christian Anderson original tale of the little mermaid. The original was a cautionary tale about not rising above your station or defying your parents. At least that’s how I’ve always thought of it. So to make a happy-ending Disney adventure out of it is a bit of a departure to say the least. And of course the message that love is based almost entirely on physical appearance (since Ariel has to woo Eric sans voice) is an awful thing to pitch to an entire generation of impressionable little girls.

So… wait… why do I like this movie so much again? Oh, yeah. Hotness! And the return of good animation to Disney. I look forward to reviewing Aladdin, which had most of the good aspects of this movie and fewer of the bad ones. And Mork!

Oh, one last note: this movie pre-dates one of my most hated trends in film-making: the pop-song rendition of a song from the movie over the closing credits. Here we just get a reprise of “Under the Sea,” which is far better.

May 17, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | 1 Comment