I appear on “CTV News at 11:30” with anchor Andria Case to talk about the best movies and television to watch this weekend. This week I have a look at a trio of films on the big screen, the live-action “The Little Mermaid,” the Julia Louis-Dreyfus dramedy “You Hurt My Feelings” and Gerard Butler’s latest action-a-thon “Mission Kandahar,” and the Crave musical bio “Love to Love You: Donna Summer.”
I appear on “CTV News at 6” with anchor Andria Case to talk about the best movies and television to watch this weekend. This week I have a look at a trio of films on the big screen, the live-action “The Little Mermaid,” the Julia Louis-Dreyfus dramedy “You Hurt My Feelings” and Gerard Butler’s latest action-a-thon “Mission Kandahar,” and the Crave musical bio “Love to Love You: Donna Summer.”
Watch as I review three movies in less time than it takes to stamp your feet! Have a look as I race against the clock to tell you about the underwater adventures of “The Little Mermaid,” the Julia Louis-Dreyfus in “You Hurt My Feelings” and Gerard Butler in “Mission Kandahar.”
Disney takes you back under the sea with “The Little Mermaid,” the latest of their photo-realistic, live action remakes of classic animated movies. Based on the 1837 Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of the same name, the new film places the titular mermaid in an undersea world that brings to mind your work computer’s aquarium screensaver.
Singer-songwriter and actress Halle Bailey stars as Ariel, the mermaid daughter of the Kingdom of Atlantica’s ruler King Triton (Javier Bardem). She is a free spirit, fascinated by the human world. Unlike his daughter, the overprotective King is no fan of humans and has forbidden her from visiting the “above world.”
But, like the song says, she “wants to be where the people are,” despite her father’s warnings. “I want to see them dancing,” she sings. “Walking around on those… what do you call them? Oh feet!”
Her dry land dreams are fulfilled when she rescues the human Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) from drowning. She is immediately smitten, and determined to live above sea level.
“This obsession with humans has got to stop,” scolds King Triton.
“I just want to know more about them,” she says.
Following her heart, Ariel makes a deal with Ursula (Melissa McCarthy), an evil sea witch with glow-in-the-dark phosphorescence tentacles, who grants the mermaid’s wish to be with Eric in trade for her “siren song,” i.e. her voice.
“Here’s the deal,” she says. “I’ll whip up a little potion to make you human for three days. Before the sun sets on the third day, you and Princey must share a kiss, and not just any kiss. The kiss of true love. If you do, you will remain human permanently. But if you don’t, you’ll turn back into a mermaid and you belong to me.”
Ursula’s “premium package” comes at a high cost, however. A steep price tag that could cost King Triton his crown and Ariel her life.
You can’t shake the feeling, while watching the new “The Little Mermaid,” that it is competing with itself.
The 2023 photo-realistic animation is very good, presenting beautiful, fluid images, buoyed by theatrical flourishes from director Rob Marshall and strong performances from Halle Bailey and Melissa McCarthy. The new songs, by Alan Menken and Lin-Manuel Miranda, are good too, particularly the fun “Scuttlebutt.”
But it feels like something is missing. That’s the magic that made the ink and paint “Little Mermaid” an enduring classic.
There is plenty of razzmatazz. Marshall, a veteran of big musical extravaganzas like “Chicago” and “Into the Woods,” is at his best when applying a Broadway style gloss to the musical numbers. “Under the Sea,” a holdover from the first film, is a knockout. The psychedelic underwater cinematography will give your eyeballs a workout and it has a good beat and you can dance to it.
But for every Ziegfeld Follies style dancing sea slug number—super cool—there is yet another movie-stopping scene of Ursula’s endless exposition where she explains her nefarious plot or a padded action scene. Those slow spots give the storytelling a choppiness that would capsize a lesser vessel but Bailey’s strong, emotional vocals and star-making performance coupled with a fun turn from Daveed Diggs as the “educated crustation” Sebastian keep the ship from sinking.
“The Little Mermaid’s” message of a young person giving up their voice so they could be heard, is unchanged, and is still powerful, but feels waterlogged by comparison to the original.
The new animated film Frozen features something unique — dueling Disney princesses.
“I think what was really important for this movie was to have the female perspective,” says co-director Chris Buck.
“We have two female leads and there are times that as a male director you can go to the stereotype of what a female character might do.”
That’s where co-director and writer Jennifer Lee came in. “Jen would always take it to a different place,” he says. “She would say, ‘Make her real. Make her believable.’ So I think that really helped. It was a good balance.”
Based on a Danish fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, Frozen is the story of two royal sisters, Anna, a spirited adventurer (Kristen Bell) and Elsa, a queen (Idina Menzel) with the awesome power to create ice and snow. Sibling is pitted against sibling when Elsa plunges her kingdom into an endless winter and Anna must act to save her sister and the empire. “You want to make these movies to last forever but we have to bring ourselves to it,” says Buck. “We have to bring today’s sense of entertainment and character to our characters.”
“We’re huge Disney fans and I grew up with Disney,” says Lee. “When you watch a Disney film you are constantly feeling it. It is a combination of comedy and drama but it is together in such a way that you feel you are in the world. That is something we both love more than anything because that, to me, is what makes them timeless and resonate. You feel the character and you feel the stakes. You relate to them. I think Disney does that better than anyone.”
Buck says that one of the big challenges in making Frozen was creating a movie for not “just the Disney family but also for the general audience, for everyone of all ages.
“I feel more than anything, a responsibility not to necessarily the company but to the audience,” says Buck. “To the audience who comes in expecting a Disney movie and giving them the best of that. What does that mean to them? It’s humour and emotion and beauty and all of that. For me, that’s the pressure.
“I was speaking to a live action director who does more movies in the PG-13 and R-rated realm and he said, ‘What you guys do is the hardest thing in the world because you try and reach everyone.’”