The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Someone reminded me how much I love this film today (it doesn't take much really) n I figured I should explain here since it's in my 4 favourites… this is just a copy paste of a review I wrote last year when it came out on blu-ray…

The Little Mermaid II is honestly turning into one of my favourite movies in a very serious way. There are too many abominable reviews of it out there and I've been meaning to try and redress the balance for a long time, especially since it hit blu-ray where it looks astonishingly better than it ever has. The story seems similar to the first movie on the surface - Ariel's daughter Melody wants to be a mermaid, like Ariel wanted to be human, but Ariel fears the dangers of the sea, like her father feared humans; particularly Morgana, sister of Ursula, the octopus witch of the original. But the way this is framed is important. Perhaps the reason Melody is drawn to the sea is that her parents, after the first hint of a threat from Morgana, built a giant wall separating land from sea - the very union that was the resolution of the first movie. We're drawn to the mysterious, that which we're told is forbidden - some of us, least - and Melody and Ariel are absolutely this kind of person, but they don't realise how alike they are. This is a movie about the need to label and divide passing from generation to generation and being considered okay as long as it's called something else, and - ironically - dividing us even more.

It's Melody's 12th birthday and just like Ariel at 16 she's not really au fait with such occasions, preferring to frolic beyond the forbidden wall with Sebastian the crab (okay, they don't explain why she's okay with the fact he can speak yet doesn't question the rest of her parents' bullsh*t lol… but hey I guess it's what you get used to that you believe…), exploring the ocean. After her party goes awry (a bit of slapstick with the old French chef from the first movie), there's a scene that resonated particularly strong for me on this viewing after some personal stuff this past weekend. Ariel tries to comfort Melody, making what to the audience is just a bad joke but when you actually think about it is actually incredibly cruel - "I was a regular fish out of water," she says, and follows up by saying, "you can tell me anything" which we know simply isn't true, and she should too, having hidden that statue etc from her father 12 years previously.

So it's understandable and actually a little exciting when Melody not only runs away, like Ariel did in the first movie, makes a deal with Ursula's sister and becomes a mermaid, but also then steals her grandfather's trident for the new witch. The fact is this family hasn't learned their own lesson yet, and it's exhilarating to see this little girl sticking it to them. Repetition is a form of insanity - this movie isn't recycling a story for the sake of making a little more money, it's actually using that cliché to say something about the fact we do this ourselves every day.

There is a simply incredible scene at the end of this movie. Ursula's sister is defeated in a similar fashion (a little rushed and easy if you ask me, but it's not exactly crucial to the reason I love the movie). King Triton tells his granddaughter Melody, "I don't blame you for wanting to join us merfolk…" (in the same condescending tone Ariel said "You can tell me anything…" if you ask me) and he gives her a choice - same as it seemed the rules were in the first movie - she can be a mermaid or a human, he'll wave his trident and make it so.

"I have a better idea," Melody says, and in the next shot, she holding the trident, breaks down the effing wall.

I've been going through a whole kind of self-analysis thing, well, most of my life, but particularly recently about gender binary, identity, the way these things pass down through generations, the way people do things because they feel it's what they're supposed to do, because who of us really knows better etc. But I'm focussing too much on my own obsessions. On the most basic level this movie is about absolutism in all its forms - any system that says there are only two choices and that one is right and one is wrong. The wall erected between land and sea is the wall between any two extremes you feel are pulling you to choose between, when you actually feel like you lie somewhere between and they both have their good and bad points. There are assholes and angels in both mer and human kingdoms and the wider you cast your net the more angelfish you're gonna catch (sorry that was awful lol). I really think this aspect of this movie has been severely overlooked - it might be the best message I've seen in any Disney movie. But still, really, as per my initial response, it had me at Melody and the incredible song "For a Moment"… for those two elements alone, it is worth it. If you haven't seen it yet, see it - if you have seen it, please… watch it again…

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