I don’t need Rotten Tomatoes critics to tell me how to feel about ‘The Little Mermaid,’ or any other Disney remake for that matter
Screengrab via Disney
Picture this: It’s the day before the premiere of the movie you’ve waited all year to see. You open your phone, navigate to Rotten Tomatoes, and immediately wish you hadn’t after seeing the critic score next to the big bright red tomato (or green splat); Rob Marshall’s The Little Mermaid is worse than seven other Disney live-action remakes, according to the website. So, you trepidatiously drag your feet to the movie theater and spend the subsequent two hours and fifteen minutes with a cautious smile on your face. You love it. But you walk out of the movie theater wondering if you would’ve loved it more had you not been primed to hate it.
I have found myself caught up in these series of events more times than I care to admit. Like almost everyone, I am easily swayed by the court of public opinion. If you tell me a movie is bad, I will unconsciously reject any positive reaction I have to it because surely I’m missing the point. It happened with Cruella, it happened with Christopher Robin, it happened with Beauty and the Beast, Maleficent (one and two), and yes, The Little Mermaid.
My point is, if I’m easily swayed by the almighty Rotten Tomatoes critic score, others are too. As someone with a partner who religiously checks a movie’s Rotten Tomatoes score before seeing the film and then 99.9% of the time has a matching opinion, I can speak firsthand to the sway it has over people. One time I flat-out lied about a film’s score just to see what would happen; lo and behold, my beloved partner walked out of that theater with a far loftier opinion than the movie’s critics.
Now, my personal experiment isn’t scientific, but at the end of the day, critic scores mean nothing to Disney’s bottom line. The Little Mermaid currently has a 67% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes. Its audience score, on the other hand, is one of the highest in the studio’s live-action history. It sits at an impressive 95%, making it second to Cruella and tied with Maleficent: Mistress of Evil as of this writing (both of which have rotten or near-rotten critic scores). Furthermore, The Little Mermaid is on track to become the studio’s next billion-dollar blockbuster. Money (and audience scores) talks, and Disney, ever the polite partner, listens.
Plus, the cumulative critic scores on Rotten Tomatoes hardly mean anything when it comes to the financial health of Disney’s live-action remakes. The Lion King (52%), Aladdin (57%), and Beauty and the Beast (71%), all have rotten or near-rotten critic scores. And yet they all have favorable audience scores (88%, 94%, and 80% respectively) and all belong to the billion-dollar box office club. We’re dishing out our dollars, and Disney is interpreting that as the greenlight to carry on.
Yes, film critics are important to the world of cinema, I am not negating that. But when we form a collective opinion about a film based on a score that is basically akin to the number of likes on a social media post, that’s when we venture into troublesome waters. That’s when we’ve forsaken our own opinions for a comfy spot at the proverbial table. I don’t need Rotten Tomatoes to tell me how to feel about The Little Mermaid. I loved it, and 95% of other moviegoers did too.
The Little Mermaid is currently playing in theaters. You can read our review of the film here.
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