Halle Bailey Called 'Perfect Ariel' in 'Little Mermaid' Reviews: 'Impossible Not to Fall in Love with Her'
Critics said Halle Bailey's "charisma radiates off the screen" and is "all the reason that any audience should need to justify Disney revisiting this classic"
Critics are overwhelmingly aligned on Halle Bailey's star-making performance in The Little Mermaid.
The 23-year-old singer/actress takes over the big screen this Friday as Ariel in Disney's live-action reimagining of the 1989 animated musical. Her casting caused racist backlash from some online when it was announced back in 2019. Now that the reviews are out, Bailey is earning praise for her "perfect" standout performance as the iconic Disney princess.
Coleman Spilde wrote in a Daily Beast review that the movie is "so good, thanks to Halle Bailey's perfect Ariel." Spilde added, "Even when its pacing stumbles, The Little Mermaid remains magical, thanks largely to the brilliance of Bailey, who is destined to bring this iconic role to a new generation."
Variety's Peter Debruge compared Bailey's "Part of Your World" scene to Jennifer Hudson's show-stopping (and Oscar-winning) performance in 2006's Dreamgirls.
"Halle Bailey is all the reason that any audience should need to justify Disney revisiting this classic," wrote Debruge. "Director Rob Marshall found his Ariel, and together, they've made a keeper. Just wait till you hear her sing 'Part of Your World,' delivered with all the conviction of Jennifer Hudson's career-making rendition of 'And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going.' "
Related:Daveed Diggs Says It's Important Kids 'Of All Ethnicities' See Halle Bailey in Little Mermaid (Exclusive)
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Maureen Lee Lenker, in a review for Entertainment Weekly, said Bailey is "breathtaking as Ariel": "Her rendition of 'Part of Your World' ... transmogrifies the already classic tune into something as otherworldly as undiscovered sea life. But it's her altogether human performance that makes it impossible not to fall in love with her."
While some critics may have been lukewarm on the film as a whole, they agreed Bailey shines in the lead role.
Lovia Gyarkye of The Hollywood Reporter said the actress "doesn't disappoint as Ariel" and added that "her performance adds edge to what is ultimately a serviceable film" and "her charisma radiates off the screen."
IndieWire's Kate Erbland wrote that Bailey's casting "makes the best case for why this classic Disney tale needed to be made into a live-action affair."
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Added Erbland, "Just look at her face, so expressive and so open, so deeply and wonderfully human and alive. There are some things even the most lovingly rendered pieces of hand-drawn animation just can't match, and Bailey's emotive skill is one of them. (And her stunning singing? Further icing on the 'this young woman is a movie star' cake.)"
Ellen E. Jones echoed that sentiment in a review for The Guardian: "It's ironic that her casting as the titular Ariel was ever thought controversial. Bailey is both the finished film's only unmitigated triumph and the best argument for this whole live-action remake enterprise in one shimmering mermaidcore package."
The Little Mermaid — which also stars Melissa McCarthy, Javier Bardem, Jonah Hauer-King, Awkwafina, Daveed Diggs, Jacob Tremblay and more — swims into theaters Friday.
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