Sunday, June 7, 2015

Please don't make this a movie: Zen and the art of faking it.

I wanted to try a new thing out, kinda the opposite of telling you all about good books that might make good films. I want to tell you about a book that, while pretty good for its age group, would NOT make a good movie. Zen and the Art of Faking It.

I read this book one day subbing for an eighth grade class who was collectively reading and discussing it (or SHOULD have been.) and because I had recently finished my previous book and had brought nothing to read. As good as an excuse as any, I suppose.

It's the tale of a constantly displaced eighth grader named San Lee who gets his kicks by creating a new persona every time he moves. After all, he's not staying around for long, why should he be his boring old self when he can be whoever he wants.

He and his newly single mother (and broke, the reasons why are explained but... no spoilers!) have moved once more to a new neighborhood. Coincidentally, he discovers his new class is learning about Asian literature and philosophies.  San finds himself, even though he has spent his entire life with his very white adopted parents in the U.S., taking on the persona of a teenaged Zen master. He pretends to meditate in the morning at school, with the rising sun framing his silhouette just perfectly to impress the love interest, gets a group of kids to apply his "Zen" teachings to the basketball team (even though it's complete b... baloney), and even inadvertently gives up hamburgers because his new self is supposed to be vegetarian. Until the night of the BIG GAME, when it could all come crashing down.

I do kind of like this book... as a book. It's harmless enough, works well with middle grade readers, and teaches that all important lesson about being yourself. But you may have noticed that the plot is kind of reminiscent of cheesy teen movies and that it has that liar revealed consequence riding on the BIG GAME. And that is why I really, really hope that this book is not adapted into a movie.

The whole thing seems very made-for-TV movie as it is, as if the author was not someone who actually remembers what middle school was actually like, so he must rely on mediocre TV teen movies to remind him. As an adult reading it, there are quite a few criticisms I have, but most revolve around the TV teen movie thing. The MC is of course the most popular and noticed guy in school (a pet peeve of mine in children's, MG, and YA literature), the love interest is totally into him from the go, the jock is an intimidating meathead and also LI's stepbrother, etc. for every cliché you think might be out there. But, I acknowledge that I am in my 30's.  The audience for this book is squarely in middle school grades, and middle schoolers have not seen all of these tropes a million times and often done worse than this. The book is not a bad place to start, but as a movie, it would end up falling into thoughtless teen movie fodder which has been done again and again and tends to end up rerunning on Nickelodeon or something. It runs the very high risk of being just another schlock among schlocks. So (as if movies makers can hear/read my plea) please, please, don't make this a movie.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Hi there!

Wow, it's been a long time.  You look great!  Yeah, I've been keeping pretty busy myself.  Hey, I got a lot of reading done recently, and almost all of my books have movies! And, summer vacation is about o start.  So... I guess you want me to tell you what I think.  I mean, that's why you come here to see me after all, right?

OK, honesty here, I have been working as a substitute teacher, and for a little while as a tax preparer.  I have read a few books with the intention of writing something here.  I actually read The Fault in Our Stars both for this blog and because in the intervening year since I last posted I have apparently become a Nerdfighter and wanted to read some of John Green's books.  And the movie was about to come out.  I started to write the post and everything, but I kind of unintentionally abandoned it during research on Esther Earl, a big part of the inspiration behind the book.  I probably will finish the post, even though I know there are a lot of reviews on it out there from when it was in theaters, but I do want to do it, and maybe a year removed will be a different perspective.  Paper Towns, though.  Yeah, you should be seeing that in about a month.

I never did finish Howl's Moving Castle, even though I wanted to, because I have lost my book.


Shut up.

So, maybe for the summer we have The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, The Stand (I have wanted to do this one since I started!), and The Last Unicorn.  Maybe The Last Unicorn.  There seems to be a lot of reviews about that one recently too for some reason.

There.  I've promised.  And I have time and no excuses.  And I want to try at least one last time to bring this poor blog back from the dead again.

So, yeah, it was great seeing you!  We should do this more often.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

I'm not dead

Hello those few of you who read my silly little thingie.  I just wanted to let everyone know that I am still here and I still intend on doing this thing.  I have relatively recently gotten a job that's about 50 miles away from where I live, so between teacher stuff and commuting, I spend more time out of my house than in it.  It also leaves very little time for reading, although the commute lends itself wonderfully to audiobooks, so don't be surprised if I start talking about listening to books more often than reading them in the upcoming entries.  I am also planning on starting to seriously think about doing videos instead, since I know my text posts tend to be kinda long and watching for 5-10 minutes is easier than reading 3 pages of stuff.  So, bear with me, and I will get my next one out hopefully soon, be it a text or a video.

I might post up my thoughts about the 2nd Hobbit movie or the 2nd Hunger Games movie, but since I saw Smaug a month or so ago and I have yet to see Catching Fire (I had no one to go with...) I may skip out on them.  But then again...  I guess I can try to recreate my reaction...  watch the one I haven't yet seen...

Ok now I'm just kinda babbling.  My "UP next" bar or whatever I call it may change suddenly.  I know I was planning on doing Jekyll and Hyde, but there are SO MANY ADAPTATIONS that I had to switch books, and as far as Interview with the Vampire... honestly I found the book kinda boring.  So I didn't finish it.  I WILL finish the book I am currently reading (yes, reading) and I already love the movie, so this one will probably get done.  Hopefully before March.

Until next time, hopefully in less than another year's time!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Impressions

I'm actually preparing to go right now.  I will edit the post after the movie, but I wanted to get some of my expectations out before I saw it, you know, cause I don't want to convince myself they were something that they weren't.  Not that I'm in the habit of doing that, just that...  ok, nevermind.

My best friend introduced me to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings a number of years ago when I worked overnight shift at a customer service call center, back when customer service wasn't outsourced to people that had little to no concept of the product they were hired to support.  I got angry at customers who called me at 3am as I read the adventures of the little furry-footed people: how dare they interrupt my reading for their silly cell phone billing issues!  Tolkein's world building was superb and very in-depth something that you don't see too often nowadays in literature or movies.

I, like many people, had asked for the books for Christmas after seeing The Fellowship of the Ring.  I ended up with two copies of them.  But receiving the books and reading them after I had seen the first movie made me do something completely out of character.  I went to the movie again.  Alone.

Look, you don't understand.  I NEVER see movies more than once in the theater unless it's to go with two different groups of friends.  I have seen a total of 4 movies in the theater twice.  Fellowship of the Ring is the only movie, to date, that I wanted to see again while it was in the theater.  I loved all of the Lord of the Rings movies, and the fact that the same concept artists in the books' illustrations was the set concept artists made the feeling of Middle Earth coming to life all the more real.

Ever since The Return of the King, there has been talk, be it rumors or otherwise, of Peter Jackson making The Hobbit.  I waited for a long time for a confirmation to this, and when the news got out that not only is it true, but Andy Serkis had already been signed as Golum, well, let's just say squee broke a few windows in my house.

Then comes a few moths ago when I found out that The Hobbit was a trilogy.  Not only were Andy Serkis, Ian McKellen, and Hugo Weaving reprising their roles, but so were characters that never showed up in The Hobbit, like Cate Blanchet as Galadriel, and even Elijah Wood as Frodo.  I'm not sure how to feel about this.  The only explanation I could come up with is some sort of flashback or story-telling device to inexorably tie this telling of Bilbo's story to the existing movies, even though Ian Holm was not playing Bilbo - or at least not young Bilbo (you know, like he did in the flashback scene of finding the Ring).  If that's the case, then it's totally not necessary.  Add to that the seemingly current movie trend of breaking up a movie unnecessarily just to make a few extra bucks in the box office (looking at you, Breaking Dawn) makes it disappointing that the filmmakers behind The Hobbit would stoop to that level.  All I can say is that these additions better be worth it to inform story or character and not just a gratuitous money making move... that I'm sure cost them millions to begin with.  It made sense to break up The Lord of the Rings into three parts - it had already been done for the book by the author and publisher.  The Hobbit is only one book, and about as long as any one part of The Lord of the Rings.  What other purpose could there be to break up The Hobbit?


I'm back.  Ok I was back a while ago, but I am so not used to being out until 2am anymore what with teaching and all.  So, what did I think of the movie?

Well, I was right about Elijah Wood (as well as Ian Holm) being in the movie only for flashback/story vehicle purposes that were kind of unnecessary.  The opening scene on was the same day that The Lord of the Rings started, only earlier in the day, and Bilbo was writing the memoir that is featured in the The Lord of the Rings movie.  Not bad, even understandable, but not really necessary.  The scene wasn't bad, it just didn't need to be there.  Anyway when the story proper starts and the "Good Morning" scene ensues, it kind of irked me slightly that Gandalf did not let Bilbo know that he would be there the next day.  Granted in the book, Bilbo forgot anyway, but Gandalf at least had the courtesy to let Bilbo know to expect company.  I suppose for time's sake I can forgive the arrival time of the dwarves being clumped into one group with the exception of Balin, Dwalin, Fili and Kili.  And the dinner scene was wonderfully recreated and enjoyable.

There are two big things that I did not like about the movie too much.  One was the inserted scenes with Elrond, Galadriel, Sauman, and Gandalf talking about the impending doom that seems to be approaching.  This not only slows the pacing of the film but also changes the mood of the story.  The Hobbit is a lot more lighthearted than The Lord of the Rings (even if there is danger and death in it), and having these sort of boring talks between the ancient ones about what we as a movie audience knew was coming but what in the context of The Hobbit is almost nonexistent seems to only serve as padding to make the movie stretch out to the $$ three movies.

The other thing that actually had me whispering "Ok, get on with it!" was the prevalence and length of action scenes.  There were not that many action scenes in the book, at least not in this part of it, and the fact that every other scene was an action scene that added little to the plot or story or characters did nothing to make me enjoy the movie more.  Scenes that were implied in the book became literal in the movie, which further served to stretch the movie.  The goblin (orcs in the movie, but from what I understand the two terms are interchangeable) fight scene was good and rather well done, and although not completely faithful to source material the troll scene was humorous enough, but the warg scene where the dwarves and Bilbo and Gandalf are up in the trees lasted way too long.  Add to that the rock giants literally causing storms and avalanches (where in the book it was figurative) and the $$ padding starts to become dull.

Other than those relatively minor things, though, the movie was pretty good.  It had the sweeping shots of Hobbiton and the mountains as the dwarf party crossed them, the Riddles in the Dark scene was superb, and the orchestrations as magnificent as one would expect from the Middle Earth as brought to you by Peter Jackson franchise.  One last nitpick, though.  There were many shots that seemed to be deliberate parallels to  The Lord of the Rings.  The aforementioned sweeping shots of running across mountains, for instance.  And the shot where the ring lands on Bilbo's finger after it somehow gets flung up into the air.  Yeah, that happened in neither The Hobbit, nor The Lord of the Rings and yet it's in both movies.

Overall a good movie, but because it seemed to drag in places and took a little too much from the Lord of the Rings movies, I have to say I like it less than it's predecessor movies... that have a story that was written after it...  and take place 60 years later... See it in theaters if you like The Lord of the Rings, but don't expect it to be as breathtaking as them.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Hunger Games Movie: Impressions

I’m not making excuses anymore.  Just bear with me until I have less (read: no) homework and more time to read.  I’ll write when I can.

That said, I just now got back from The Hunger Games movie.  In my last few posts, I mentioned it a time or ten.  Obviously, I love the books.  So, what did I think of the movie?  Well, let me say that I don’t plan on giving this the full Theater’s Reader treatment (“Thank goodness,” say the people who told me that my posts are too long.)  I’m going to mention some of the things that I thought worked and what I thought was lacking – sort of a half treatment I guess.

I thought the movie was good.  I liked it.  No, it was not exactly faithful to the book, but it didn’t stray too far, either.  The deviations from the book were forgivable and occasionally necessary, such as Katniss singing to Prim in the beginning when in the book she hadn’t sung for years. The scenes with the game makers were a nifty way to show all the things Katniss internally thought in the book.  I could argue that it was never a sure thing that what Katniss was thinking was actually what was happening, and that showing that it was actually happening removed that reader's discretion.  Truth is, I think Suzanne Collins meant for Katniss' internal monologue to be a vehicle for what was actually happening, so I didn’t mind.

I liked most of the performances, too.  Peeta and Katniss each did a good job in their parts, and had character appropriate chemistry.  I was so hoping, as I usually do with movies based on books, that there were no “names”, no famous actors that audiences will see as Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis playing GI Joe; with "unknowns" moviegoers just see GI Joe.  (I saw that trailer, yea.)  And for the most part, I got my wish.  I didn’t recognize anyone but Woody Harrelson as Haymitch, and I think he did a pretty good job.  I was having a tough time figuring out why I recognized President Snow, until IMDb told me he was Keifer Sutherland’s dad (whose movies I’ve never seen, but since his son looks just like him...).  IMDb also let me know that Elizabeth Banks played Effie, who I didn’t recognize her under all the makeup, and whose flaws I attribute to script flaws more than her performance (telling, not showing, her obsession with manners for instance).

The part of the movie that made me the maddest, if you can call it that, was the text opening.  The first minute of the movie is white text on a black background summarizing the Treaty of Treason.  It flashes by too fast so if you are a slow reader you miss some.  That’s not the part that upset me most about it, though.  About five minutes later, that boring text opening is made redundant by the much more exciting propaganda film shown at the Reaping that says the same exact thing.  Same words and everything.  So, if that propo was in there, why the text opening?  It wasn’t necessary and, as I mentioned, a boring way to open what was otherwise a well paced movie.

The biggest flaw I saw in the movie was the void of emotional investment.  Here’s my big to-the-book comparison.  What made the book so good was the fact that in a short space of time, you really grew to love or hate certain characters.  You love Prim and Rue.  You hate Glimmer, Clove, and Cato.  You respect Fox Face.  The movie failed at giving us any reason to care one way or the other about most of these characters.  I didn’t hate movie Cato, and the only reason I disliked movie Clove was because of the gloating she did while threatening Katniss.  There wasn’t even enough there for me to get too much feeling out of Rue’s death, which always makes me cry when I read/listen to the book.  The movie told the story fine, it got all the details it needed to, but didn’t give me anything to feel.

So, that’s my first impressions on the movie itself.  Going to a movie on opening night had some perks that watching a movie at home or even when it’s been in the theater for weeks does not.  I don’t usually do that.  In fact the only time I even went on an opening weekend was for Deathly Hallows.  The audience laughed at odd times, like when Katniss and Peeta are about to eat the berries, for some reason that got laughter.  Applause at Katniss’ fire costume was expected. (Here’s a nitpick: they never explained the coal connection. People that hadn’t read the book didn’t know why Katniss was on fire, apart from it being something to “make her memorable”.)  Awws at Peeta’s confession of “crush” was ok.  And the 20ish girl next to me said “Eww!” when Peeta smeared ointment on Katniss’ bloody forehead.  But laughter during death scenes?  Kind of weirded me out a bit.

Do I recommend?  Yes.  The flaws are outnumbered by what I think the adaptation did right.  The fact that Suzanne Collins was co-writer of the script, and that she is a screenwriter anyway (albeit for children’s TV) certainly helped this book make a good transition to the silver screen.  Worth the $10 movie ticket.  No need for 3-D though.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

How do you like your book-based movies? Over-easy, thanks!

Over the holidays, I visited my sister.  We had some chats and eventually the conversation turned to the upcoming movie release of a book I have mentioned a few times already: The Hunger Games.  I have been in trepidation of this movie since I heard they were adapting the book(s) about a year ago.  Why?  Well, the reason lies with Harry Potter.

Can't get enough!!!
I’m not about to recall my original statement regarding this series: I have no intention of going in depth with Harry Potter any time soon.  But, let’s just say I am such a fan of the books that I spent over a year posting daily (and often multiple time a day) to a discussion site dedicated to predicting the seventh book, and some of that time was after the seventh book had been released to discuss in-depth character futures and Potter world speculations.  I dressed in my Ravenclaw robe, mixed up some “potions”, and toted my wand around last Halloween.  I am addicted to butterbeer.

So, of course I was excited when the movies were first made.  How awesome to see the books come to life.  And some casting choices were so perfect that I actually had the actors in my mind as I read the books before the movies were even cast (Maggie Smith as Pr McGonagall in particular).  There was almost no way that I was going to be satisfied with these movies.  I had such excitement built up and such high expectations that disappointment was inevitable.  And it only got worse as the movies went on, to the point that by the time I saw Goblet of Fire, I considered not even going to see Order of the Phoenix.

This brings me back to the conversation I had with Heather about The Hunger Games.  I had seen the trailer.  So had she.  And her husband.  And they both loved the trailer, while I was/possibly still am kinda blasé about it.  Suzanne Collins is a scriptwriter by professional experience, and the book is about a battle royale that is nationally televised, so the book is already rather theatrical.  I expect the movie to translate well.  But my lackluster reaction to the trailer led my sister to comment that there are two types of people in this regard: those who expect the movie to be just like the book (and are ultimately let down) and those who enjoy it for movie’s sake, regardless of how faithful or deviant it is from the source.  Naturally, she put me in the former category.

While I will admit that I started this blog with that sort of mentality, I think that I have started to change my viewpoint.  Even though I have not done too many reviews yet, I am starting to appreciate the fact that the movie might be very loosely based on the book and still be a good movie in its own right.  Don’t get me wrong – she’s right, I am more on the side of the-original-story-was-perfect-and-how-dare-you-change-it. I may still expect a certain amount of book cannon.  Or, as in the case of The DaVinci Code, praise the changes as “corrections”.  However, I am considering going back and looking at those Harry Potter movies and attempting to view them under a new lens as works on their own.  Hopefully I will be able to enjoy The Hunger Games in the theaters through that same lens.

Neither viewpoint is better than the other.  As with anything, each person has a different opinion, and all opinions are acceptable (as long as they are your own).  So, I have my first evar direct question for comment response!  What type of book movie watcher are you?  Are you a purist who likes the movie to be as close to the book as possible, or are you an accommodator who is open to screenwriter and director interpretation of a loved book?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Little Mermaid

Who hasn’t heard of this movie?  It’s one of Disney’s classics, back from when they were making really awesome animated features during what many call the Disney Renaissance.  I’ve loved this movie since it came out in 1989, and my sister did, too.  We had it on VHS (yes the one with the… inappropriate subliminal castle on the case), and played it so much we both memorized it.  Then we’d act it out, arguing over who got to be Ariel and who had to be everyone else, and singing in “French” when it came time for Chef Louis’s torture of Sebastian.  Ah, such fond memories…

With all of the obsessive fandom – as obsessive as I could get at age 11 with no money anyway – it was only a matter of time before I read the original story.  And… it’s quite different.  Sure there are some elements the same, but it’s got quite a different moral and a depressing ending.  And, of course, Disney had to water that down some (no pun intended.  Or was it?)

The original fairy tale was written by Hans Christian Andersen in 1839, apparently originally as a ballet, and published by C.A. Reitzel the following year in a fairy tale compilation book.  Some literary scholars or whatever speculate over the changing of the titular character from a mermaid to a human to a whatever she is at the end of the story as a reflection of Andersen’s constantly changing identity.  Whether this is a gender swapped self reflection or not, I don’t know and don’t really care; it’s a pretty good story even if the morals are a bit outdated.

We join our unnamed heroine six years before her fifteenth birthday, at which time she will be allowed to go up to the surface and see all the wonders of the world above the water.  She and her older five sisters are doted on by a grandmother who prides herself in being the matriarch of the royal family.  Very proper, very Victorian.  For each year leading up to her big one-five, her sisters get their turn and come back with tales of all they have seen, making their little sister jealous and long for going up.  When she does finally get to go up, she sees the Prince and falls in love, saves him from drowning, and everything.  She obsesses, and visits the Sea Witch to make her a human, has to get him to fall in love with her, etc.

The little mermaid’s main motivation in wanting to be human is not only love – it’s also an insatiable curiosity and a desire for an immortal soul that only marrying a human can grant her.  You see, there is no merperson heaven.  When merpeople die, they become sea foam.  There’s something jolly for you to think about next time you go to the beach: that white stuff that floats on the waves that you’re playing in is dead mermaids.  This soul thing she hears about from her prim grandma is worth more to her than anything, and she is willing to endure quite a bit of pain to get it.  To become human, not only does she have her tongue cut out, but the transformation itself feels like a sword slicing through her fins.  As a human, every step she takes as a human feels like she’s walking on knife tips to the point of making her feet bleed.  In the end, our little mermaid has to make a very difficult decision, knowing the consequences of both choices are a horrible fate.

The sea-witch is a plot device, and little more – merely a way for the mermaid to become human and a chance for an almost happy ending.  I can’t say if she’s evil.  She seems a bit unpleasant but we don’t know much about her to make the call.  The Sea King is also an ancillary character, barely even mentioned in comparison to Grandma and the sisters, each of whom get at least half a page to tell what they did in the human world and why for them the novelty of going up there wears off after about a month.

The prince is who makes me the maddest in this story.  He’s, to put it mildly, an idiot.  And he apparently enjoys emotionally torturing the former mermaid.  See, he had been taken in by a local convent when one of the girls there found him washed on the shore.  He believes that she saved him, and gives absolutely no thought to how the heck he got to the shore from the middle of the sea.  He forgot to ask this convent girl her name though, so he doesn’t know who she is.  There are multiple times throughout the story where he outright tells the mermaid that he’d probably fall in love with her if it wasn’t for his determination to make the girl who “saved him” his bride.  He’s too stupid to realize that far better than any dream girl is one of flesh and blood.  One who’s warm and caring, and right before his friggin’ eyes!
The Little Mermaid, Copenhagen Harbor
This tale is so much a part of our culture, that even before Disney got a hold of it, little girls everywhere were fantasizing about being a mermaid who finds true love with a prince.  The tale has been adapted many times, and shows up in many other art forms, including painting and sculpture.  Even Splash, the live action movie also released by Disney (and incidentally, one of the contributing factors to the animated feature's production delay) is another sort of twist on this classic fairy tale.  This is one of those stories that has been in our bedtime story repertoire almost since it was written.

Development for the animated Disney film actually started waaaaaay back in the 1930’s as part of a collection of animated shorts based on Has Christian Anderson’s tales (a la the Uncle Remus Tales as presented in Song of the South, but possibly without the awkward racial stuff).  The project was delayed for various reasons, and eventually shelved.  Later, Jeffery Katzenburg picked up the tale and developed it, then found the first adaptation while their animation department was moving into a different out-of-the-way building, when they noticed that a lot of the changes were similar.  So, the new animation studio at Disney got The Little Mermaid greenlit as its second project (the first being Oliver and Company.)

The biggest change from the source material is the obvious one: Grandma Victorian Old Lady is replaced by King Triton, single father of six girls.  At least I assume he’s a single father since we never see nor hear anything about their mother.  Instead of a grandmother instilling the value of superficial beauty and vanity our heroine has an overprotective and authoritarian father.  And a crab.  And a fish that looks nothing like a flounder.  And a seagull.  You ever notice how Disney heroines have lots of animal friends and not so many human (or I suppose in this movie, merperson) ones?
Family friendly cover...
Anyway, King Triton hates humans because they eat fish.  And the merpeople eat… what?  Shrimp if Ursula is to be believed, but then do the shrimp demonize the merpeople?  I kinda hate this sort of message: a predator is evil for eating its prey.  I guess the merpeople are all just vegetarians or something, like apparently every other living thing in the sea.  Actually, his overreaction to Ariel going to the surface and running the risk of being “snared by some fisheater’s hook” has always seemed odd to me – do humans eat merpeople in this universe?  Has there been some sort of dark incident in the past that makes his fear founded?  Is that, perhaps, how Mrs. Triton died?  If there is no precedent for merpeople being killed by humans, then why does Triton forbid his people from going to the surface?  And why does he not protect his people from the enemies in the sea that probably do eat merperson every now and then?

The little mermaid, named Ariel in the movie, has the same curiosity as her original but is more of a typical rebellious teenager, as teens are nowadays.  Her motivation is simplified from a desire for both the prince and the soul marrying him could bring her, to just love at first sight.  She obsesses about the world which her father tells her is evil, and questions why he thinks so.  She goes to the surface even though it’s strictly forbidden, and allows herself to be convinced to go to Ursula, the sea which, for help even though she knows Ursula means trouble.   In fact, she needs at least a little bit of convincing for everything that she does in regard to becoming human: Who needs a voice?  Getting him to kiss you in three days will be easy-peezy!    And, since it’s Disney, she experiences none of the physical pain that the original mermaid did.

Ursula is my all-time favorite Disney villain.  Her role in the story is upgraded from plot device to catalyst for the events that land Ariel on… land.  Her motivation for helping Ariel while making it nearly impossible for the mermaid to get what she wants is a rather simple revenge plot.  King Trition kicked her out of the mer-kingdom – what for we never find out – and she not only wants back in, but she wants total mer-world domination.  Way to think big, octo-lady.  The three-day ticking clock that Ursula offers was a device of the Disney writers as well, to give a sort of suspense.  This actually annoys me, though, this “find true love in a matter of days” idea that seems to be so prevalent in movies nowadays.  Love at first sight is romantic and all, but what happens next?

"Let's eat before this crab wanders off my plate."
The Prince, given the name Eric, is thankfully smarter, and has an advisor that is both comic relief and a good advice giver named Grimsby.  He is at first determined to find and marry the girl that saved him, and indeed this time it really is the mermaid he’s looking for.  But, with Grim’s help, he does realize that this mute girl that he’s falling for might be better for him than wasting his life away chasing a dream.

All of the added characters, with only the exception of Scuttle, exist basically for comic relief and have next to no impact on the story.  Sebastian has High School Musical syndrome: wherever he is, things burst into song without warning or rehearsal if he has a message to tell.  Maybe that almost makes things happen but not anything that really wouldn’t have happened left alone, and he seems to exist only to up the musical number count in the movie.  Flounder… I really don’t know why Flounder is even in here, to be honest.  He adds nothing , makes nothing happen, and doesn’t even add too much comic relief.  Scuttle, Ariel’s overworld informant, fuels her curiosity and has the plot-useful tasks of discovering Ursula in disguise and essentially giving Ariel her voice back (something that never happened in the story).

The message of this story is… you know I’m not even sure there is really a message.  Ariel eventually gets what she wants with little consequence.  Her little adventure has even had the happy side effect of patching up human-merperson relations, since there’s a whole lot of them at the wedding.  Instead of giving up everything for intrinsic rewards of love and a soul, the lesson is disobey your parents, run away from home, date that fellow that your know your parents don’t like, and in the end your dad forgives you and gives you everything you want anyway and rearranges his whole prejudice against an entire race of beings.  Ariel’s the perfect role model for young, impressionable little girls.

I gotta admit, it’s hard watching this movie with an analytical lens after knowing all of the songs, lines, movements, bubbles, etc for the past 20 years.  Heck, I still call a fork with one bent prong a dinglehopper.  If only for nostalgic purposes, I still love this movie, even if it has its shortcomings.  The music is enjoyable and, even though the plot and characters are modernized, it makes for a more well-flushed story.  This is a movie that I continue to enjoy, even if it only basally loyal to its source material, with a much lighter tone and a happier ending.

Far out in the ocean the water is as blue as the petals of the most beautiful cornflower, and as clear as the purest glass.

My translation is from a book I have that's simply called "Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen" published by Weatherbane Books, and does not credit a translator.