From the moment the public learned Disney’s live-action remake of The Little Mermaid would race-swap the title character Ariel, the film has been the subject of both controversy and excessive praise.
Disney’s live-action remakes have consistently adjusted the original material to appeal to current sensibilities and to make casting less white and the content more woke. Naturally, Disney purists who cherish the classic 1989 animated film and wanted a more faithful adaptation of the story were a bit perturbed. While there’s no doubt that Halle Bailey, the actress playing Ariel, is extremely talented, it was a puzzling move for a story based on a fairy tale by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen.
Still, it gave the media exactly what it wanted: a pretext to accuse right-wing viewers of racism. Disney, meanwhile, saw dollar signs as its woke audience would be clamoring to prove just how anti-racist they are and flock to the theaters to see this movie.
Well, the movie itself clearly isn’t great. Despite the race-swapping and the woke tweaks to the content, professional critics didn’t gush over the film as you would have expected. As of this writing, the film has a 67% rating from critics tracked by Rotten Tomatoes. The audience score is 95%, but those reviews appear to be filtered and may not accurately reflect the views of all those who have reviewed the movie on the site.
Nevertheless, just like with the presidency of Barack Obama, the media has decided that the new version of The Little Mermaid must be seen as a success, and there is a seemingly endless string of articles touting its box office haul and making it out to be some record-breaking film.
“Disney‘s live-action remake of its 1989 animated classic easily outswam the competition, bringing in $95.5 million on 4,320 screens in North America, according to studio estimates Sunday,” wrote the Associated Press. “And Disney estimates the film starring Halle Bailey as the titular mermaid Ariel and Melissa McCarthy as her sea witch nemesis Ursula will reach $117.5 million by the time the holiday is over. It ranks as the fifth biggest Memorial Day weekend opening ever.”
No one will say this was a bad performance, but a little context is necessary. Despite all the hype surrounding The Little Mermaid, and the benefit of a long weekend opening, it failed to top The Super Mario Bros. Movie’s opening weekend domestic box office of $204.6 million. Comparing apples to apples, The Little Mermaid made $95.5 million, excluding its Memorial Day take. Ouch.
So, to put it another way, The Super Mario Bros. Movie made more than double what The Little Mermaid did over the same period of time. But, the media is presenting The Little Mermaid as some box office record breaker. It’s not. Disney remains dethroned as the box office king.