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‘Mermaid’ remake swims to the top of the heap

by DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE PRESS SERVICES | June 2, 2023 at 1:57 a.m.
This image released by Universal Pictures shows Vin Diesel in a scene from "Fast X." (Peter Mountain/Universal Pictures via AP)

LOS ANGELES -- "The Little Mermaid " made moviegoers want to be under the sea Memorial Day weekend.

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.

It ranks as the fifth biggest Memorial Day weekend opening ever. Internationally, "The Little Mermaid" premiered at $68.3 million for a global cumulative of $163.8 million.

It displaces "Fast X" in the top spot. The 10th installment in the "Fast and Furious" franchise starring Vin Diesel has lagged behind more recent releases in the series, bringing in $23 million domestically for a two-week total of $108 million for Universal Pictures.

The performance of "The Little Mermaid" represents something of a bounce-back for Disney's animated-to-live-action remakes, and makes it likely they will keep coming indefinitely. Poor reception and the pandemic had some recent reboots either performing poorly or skipping theatrical releases for Disney +, including "Dumbo," "Mulan" and "Pinocchio."

Directed by Rob Marshall, "Mermaid" stars Halle Bailey as Ariel, a rebellious sea princess who dreams of becoming human. Among the supporting cast of the family film are Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric, Javier Bardem as King Triton, Daveed Diggs as Sebastian, Jacob Tremblay as Flounder, Awkwafina as Scuttle and Melissa McCarthy as Ursula.

"It works as long as the movies deliver," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for Comscore. "It's great for Disney to be able to go to their archive by reviving these titles that started off as huge hits in the animated realm.

"The multi generational component of this cannot be overstated," Dergarabedian said.

Critics were more lukewarm. The movie is currently at 67% on Rotten Tomatoes. In her review, Lindsey Bahr of The Associated Press called it "a somewhat drab undertaking with sparks of bioluminescence" that like too many of the Disney remakes "prioritized nostalgia and familiarity over compelling visual storytelling."

"If Bailey is less expressive in her non-singing moments -- a flaw built into the story itself, once Ariel is magically divested of her voice -- she nonetheless makes an empathetic, eminently see-worthy heroine," writes L.A. Times film critic Justin Chang.

"'The Little Mermaid' ... has its visually garish moments, most of them in an underwater kingdom that looks like especially thin soup next to the recent 'Avatar: The Way of Water.' But down in the depths it does find stray passages of beauty -- in the fabric-like plumage of the mermaids' tails and especially in the pull-out-the-stops staging of 'Under the Sea,' still the movie's most rousing number."

In its fourth weekend, Disney and Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 " made an estimated $20 million in North America to take third place. It has now made $299 million domestically.

Fourth place went to Universal's "The Super Mario Bros. Movie," which keeps reaching new levels in its eighth weekend. Now available to rent on VOD, it still earned $6.3 million in theaters. Its cumulative total of $559 million makes Mario and Luigi the year's biggest earners so far.

Comics couldn't stand up to Ariel as the week's other new releases sank.

"The Machine," an action comedy starring stand-up comedian Bert Kreischer, finished fifth with $4.9 million domestically. And "About My Father," the broad comedy starring stand-up Sebastian Maniscalco and Robert De Niro, was sixth with $4.3 million.

It's not clear whether "The Little Mermaid" will have legs -- or fins -- going forward. This week brings the release of animated "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse," with "Transformers: Rise of the Beasts" arriving the following week.

  photo  This image released by Disney shows Halle Bailey as Ariel in "The Little Mermaid." (Disney via AP)
 
 
  photo  This image released by Disney shows Halle Bailey as Ariel in "The Little Mermaid." (Disney via AP)
 
 
  photo  This image released by Disney shows Melissa McCarthy as Ursula in "The Little Mermaid." (Disney via AP)
 
 
  photo  This image released by Disney shows Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric, left, and Halle Bailey as Ariel in "The Little Mermaid." (Disney via AP)
 
 
  photo  This image released by Universal Pictures shows Vin Diesel in a scene from "Fast X." (Universal Pictures via AP)
 
 
  photo  This image released by Disney shows Halle Bailey as Ariel, left, and Javier Bardem as King Triton in "The Little Mermaid." (Disney via AP)
 
 
  photo  This image released by Disney shows Halle Bailey as Ariel, left, and Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric in "The Little Mermaid." (Disney via AP)
 
 
  photo  This image released by Disney shows Halle Bailey as Ariel and Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric in "The Little Mermaid." (Disney via AP)
 
 

Print Headline: ‘Mermaid’ remake swims to the top of the heap

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