'The Little Mermaid': A small-budget movie with a very big heart
There's a lot of magic and enchantment in this film which is very distant from the realities of 1930s America; it is a true fairy tale
When the first trailer of 'The Little Mermaid' was released in March 2017, many took to Twitter to express their disappointment and the first thing to be pointed out was that the film has no 'Disney' magic. Granted that the movie isn't a big budget blockbuster by a big studio, but why should a label decide how good the film is? The fantastical movie, slated to release on August 17 in all AMC Theatres and Netflix, is a humble $5 million project with a very big heart.
In my interview with William Moseley (who plays Cam Harrison), he used the same words to describe the upcoming film and I did not know what that meant until I watched the fantasy drama. The second trailer which released this May has crossed over a million views, and while people pointed at the lack of Disney characters, including Ariel and Eric, the film is proof that fairytales can take different forms while still retaining their original ethos.
This story isn't an echo of the 1989 Disney version but is loosely based on the 1837 Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, where the mermaid is named 'Elizabeth' instead of 'Ariel'. She isn't a redhead either, she's a brunette (played by Poppy Drayton). The hero of the story isn't a sailor or a prince, but a reporter who is taking care of his ailing niece diagnosed with a mysterious sickness.
In the opening scene, we meet Shirley MacLaine, a grandmother narrating a story to two little girls. One of them is Claire Ryann, the four-year-old who captured America's attention last year by singing a song from 'Moana' along with her father. However, despite their age, the girls don't seem to believe in mermaids.
As the grandmother begins her story, we are transported to 1930s America. People are jolly and the circus enchantment has captured the mood of the people in Mississippi. Given that Cam Harrison is a reporter of Boston Globe, it is questionable why he was chasing a mermaid and investigating the mystery of a miracle healing elixir instead of reporting the ebb-and-flow of the American Great Depression.Perhaps that is how fairytales ought to be, an escape from reality.
We meet a wizard, a wicked one, who has captured the soul of Elizabeth and toys with her for monetary gains and power. At the very beginning of the story, there is an animated narration similar to Ariel's story, who rescues a sailor but the sailor falls in love with a maiden in the land, thinking it was she who rescued him. However, as the film unfurls, it is quite hard to draw parallels with Elizabeth, but we understand that her soul was bargained for.
What's more fantastical about the plot is the character of Elle (played by Loreto Peralta), Harrison's niece who believes she is a mermaid. Half-way through the film, we learn about a prophecy of a girl born with a heart of a mermaid and, as obvious as that is, it is Elle. She plays an important role when it comes to the ultimate triumph and the twist is expectedly unexpected. The hero of the story isn't Cam Harrison, well, he rescues a circus elephant, but if you think the elephant would play another massive role and save the team in times of crisis, then think again. I kept waiting for that scene, but it never came. Cam Harrison is just a good soul who expects nothing in return. Despite knowing that all he has is mortal power, as opposed to the wizard, he still tries to fight him.
I have to admit there are some cringe-worthy moments and the effects don't necessarily reflect the current paradigm, it is still, however, a beautiful movie. Fifteen minutes in and I was already in love.
However, as the film progressed, it didn't quite live up to my expectations, but hey nothing wrong with that. Human flaws are well depicted and there's a striking balance between the newness of the story and a classic tale.
Knowing that the solid cast including Shirley MacLaine, Poppy Drayton, William Moseley, Loreto Peralta and Gina Gershon became a part of a movie that was not, let's say, Disney, gives so much more scope to independent productions. From Kingsway Productions and Conglomerate Media, co-directors Blake Harris and Chris Bouchard did a wonderful job of knitting the classic tale for a new audience, reimagining the story and telling it in such a bold way.
The movie may impress some and disappoint others, but the story lingers in our heads long after the comments have been exchanged and debates have been put to rest.