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The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning (G)
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Caution: potential spoilers.

This direct-to-video prequel to 1989's The Little Mermaid came out in 2008, but I didn't see it until 2014. (It was preceded in 2000 by The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea). The movie begins when Ariel is five years old. She and her six older sisters and their mother and father are all very happy together. But then Queen Athena is killed by a pirate ship, which naturally devastates King Triton. So he throws away the music box he had just given his wife for their anniversary, and bans music from Atlantica. Which seemed like a pretty severe overreaction, to me, but then again, severe overreactions are kinda how Triton rolls.

Anyway, the movie then flashes forward ten years, so Ariel's now fifteen. Which I guess puts this movie about a year before the original movie. But it pretty much contradicts the TV series that was also a prequel to the original movie, because I don't think music had ever been banned, in that continuity. Anyway, I don't quite know what to say. I always wanted to see more of Ariel's sisters, so it was kind of nice to see them here, but there really wasn't enough time to actually get to know any of them. (And I don't really remember any of them from the TV show, so I can't compare this incarnation of the characters.) It was also nice to see their mother, however briefly... she certainly looked a lot like Ariel, and I expect she had a similar personality, but it's hard to say. Anyway... one day, Ariel meets a fish named Flounder, who works at a secret music club called the Catfish Club, and who apparently hopes to join the band that plays there. (Seeing as music is prohibited, I think of the club as a "singeasy." Which means I have no right to complain about the writing in this movie, because that is worse than anything the writers actually came up with.) And um... that night, Ariel secretly follows Flounder to the club, where she discovers that Sebastian sings with the band (which didn't surprise me in the slightest).

Meanwhile, Ariel and her sisters have a governess named Marina Del Rey, who hates her job and wants Sebastian's job as the king's chief of staff. And she has her own assistant, a manatee named Benjamin. He's actually my favorite character in the movie. He seems like a good guy, who means no one any harm, unlike his boss. In fact he seems to genuinely like everyone, including Marina, though he's kind of subtly snarky... and at the same time completely earnest. (I kind of think of him as a cross between Droopy Dog, Piglet, and a self-help/motivational speaker. Or something.) Anyway... Ariel ends up taking all her sisters to the club, and when Marina discovers they're missing, she finds them there. How she managed that, I have no idea, because it was much too late for her to follow them, and it is a very well-hidden club that you can't just swim into even if you do know where it is. Which, I reiterate, she couldn't possibly have known. And yet, she finds it quickly and with no trouble, goes in, and finds not only the princesses, but Sebastian. So of course she reports this to Triton, who reacts predictably. It's also entirely predictable that Triton's mind will eventually be changed, and he'll finally allow music back in his kingdom. But there are some obstacles for Ariel, Sebastian, Flounder, and the band to overcome before that happens. I don't want to reveal any more details, though.

The movie's mostly... I don't want to say boring, but it's also not particularly interesting. There were a few mildly amusing things in the movie, and some mildly touching things, I guess. And it's always nice to see Ariel, and as I said, it was nice to see her sisters and their mother, and I'm sure I'd like to see more of all of them, if I could, and get to know them better. As for the music, it wasn't that good or memorable, aside from "Jump in the Line"... though the movie's version is nowhere near as good as Harry Belafonte's version. Which is kind of surprising, because it seems like it would be perfect for Sebastian. (Incidentally, the first song we hear, post-music ban, is some totally forgettable thing sung by Marina, which I found kind of ironic. I mean, the fact that she'd use Sebastian's singing to get him in trouble, when she's guilty of breaking the same law, herself.) Anyway, I'm glad to have finally seen the movie. But I really don't think I'll ever bother watching it again.

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