Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ Flounders at the International Box Office

in Disney, Entertainment, Movies

'The Little Mermaid'; Ariel closeup on the front and Ariel and Eric in Disney's 'The Little Mermaid' (2023) on the left

Credit: Inside the Magic

Despite being met with generally positive reception in the US, Disney’s recently-released live-action retelling of The Little Mermaid (2023) isn’t as big a hit overseas, where it’s being bombarded with overwhelmingly negative reviews online.

Littler Mermaid
Credit: Disney

Director Rob Marshall’s highly-anticipated remake of the beloved Disney animated classic, The Little Mermaid, finally splashed into theaters on May 26. Starring Halle Bailey as Ariel, the story follows the headstrong mermaid as she becomes increasingly enamored with the surface world—in addition to the handsome human prince, Eric (Jonah Hauer-King).

A-listers from the likes of Javier Bardem, who plays King Triton, Awkwafina, who voices Scuttle, Melissa McCarthy, who plays the conniving sea witch, Ursula, and Daveed Diggs, who voices Sebastian, also round out the cast.

melissa mccarthy as ursula in ‘the little mermaid’
Credit: Disney

So far, the movie has been a hit in the US, where it’s projected to hit $117.5 million domestically by Memorial Day. But even though The Little Mermaid is rounding out the long weekend on a high note—in the US, at least—other parts of the world aren’t exactly sold on Disney’s latest underwater adventure.

Internationally, The Little Mermaid is struggling to keep its head above water, confirming the studio’s initial predictions that the movie would lean more on the domestic box office.

Halle Bailey in Disney's 'The Little Mermaid' playing with fish
Credit: Disney

According to a Deadline report, the new film brought in just $68.3 million at the international box office, which, while still an imperceivable amount of money to most, is a paltry debut for a Disney property. In China, The Little Mermaid brought in $2.5 million through Sunday, and a slightly higher $4 million in Brazil and Australia.

Its performance in Mexico fared significantly better, raking in $8.5 million across its opening weekend. It also scored $6.3 million at the UK box office and $4.7 million in Italy.

Sebastian from the live action The Little Mermaid in Under The Sea played by Daveed Diggs
Credit: Disney

Additionally, markets from France, Korea, Germany, and other countries are seeing widespread “review bombings” online on top of unexpectedly low box office performances. Collectively, The Little Mermaid is holding strong with a 95% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. But other international sites such as IMDb in the UK, Brazil, and Mexico have had to post advisories in response to the unusually high number of negative reviews.

It’s important to note that since her casting was announced last year, Bailey’s turn as Ariel has been met with racist backlash. Her role as one of the first Black live-action Disney princesses was met with immediate controversy for not being “authentic” to the original Little Mermaid story. However, her scene-stealing vocals and solid acting chops are more than enough to shut haters down.

Javier Bardem as King Triton in The Little Mermaid
Credit: Disney

Still, despite bringing much-needed representation to the Disney landscape, Bailey’s Ariel is sadly getting backward animosity to a lighthearted film made for children. More common complaints surrounding Disney’s slate of live-action remakes, including its reliance on CGI, dull color pallet, and lackluster performances from its supporting cast are also being cited in audiences’ Little Mermaid criticisms.

At the end of the day, it’s impossible to please everyone—especially when it comes to Disney live-action remakes. People have been overly-critical of the studio’s insistence on pumping out reboot after reboot of their beloved animated classics, leading to a sort of Disney “burnout” that has haunted the company in recent years.

halle bailey and jonah hauer-king as ariel and eric in the little mermaid
Credit: Disney

However, if there’s one film that might change audiences’ perception of the genre, it’s The Little Mermaid. Only time will tell if the rest of the world can hop on board with the new movie in the coming weeks, or if it will drown under the weight of critics’ overly-harsh reviews.

Have you gotten the chance to see The Little Mermaid in theaters yet? Let us know in the comments below.

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