With the “Live” event broadcasts that went wrong over the last few years, it can sometimes be tricky trying to figure out why they flopped. For instance, “Hairspray Live” and “The Wiz Live” are both blessed with terrific source material but both broadcasts were dull and uninspired. Here however, it’s plain to see why “The Little Mermaid Live” fails across the board: It’s cheap, rushed, and entirely unnecessary, with the production values of a mid-level casino show and little to no star power (not to mention the addition of two boring new songs that add nothing to the proceedings). Its main purpose seems to be the commodification of Disney nostalgia, which translates into the broadcast’s lazy reliance on the 1989 movie itself, which plays almost in its entirety while the songs are performed live by a stiff, disinterested cast who seem like they’re rather be anywhere else. As Ariel, Auli’i Cravalho sings with fervor but her voice is rather irritating: It’s all pitch and no soul, not unlike “Glee” or “American Idol” performers who hit the notes but bring no personality to the proceedings. Queen Latifah seems to be having fun as Ursula, but you want to see her more of her instead of brief, occasional appearances, while John Stamos looks embarrassed as Chef Louis – but at least he’s awake, which is more than we can say for Shaggy’s laughable, barely ambulant performance as Sebastian (and the less said about his costume, the better). The audience is notably low energy, but it’s not hard to blame them, considering how they’re standing for the entire duration of the show, which is really just a glorified movie screening orchestrated by greedy executive suits just looking to make a quick buck, and the finished product does a terrible disservice to the memory of the beloved classic.
Rating: ★ (out of 5)