Growing up “The Little Mermaid” frequented my VHS player — yes, seriously. I would wake up during the week just in time to catch “The Little Mermaid” series on Disney Channel before school and had maybe a dozen Ariel dolls and Barbie mermaids. In short, I loved Ariel and wanted to be just like her, even though she didn’t look like me. 

But now she does.

The movie is whimsical and imaginative, just like the original, but the live action adaptation gave the classic story I knew and loved for years new life — and it has given a new generation of Black girls a princess of their own — one who isn’t turned into an animal for most of the film — to look up to.

If you do not already know the story, a young mermaid named Ariel (Halle Bailey) dreams of a life on land unbeknownst to her father, King Triton (Javier Bardem) who has forbidden the entire kingdom from going anywhere near the surface following the death of her mother. 

Ariel’s curiosity for lost items and shipwrecks expands into a crush on a human, prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King), after she saves him from drowning and charms him with her siren song. Ariel then decides to make a deal with the sea witch Ursula (Melissa McCarthy) to give up her voice in exchange for legs so she can go on land for three days.

Bailey’s Ariel is nothing short of a dream come true. She embodies the wide-eyed, compassionate and curious princess better than I could have ever imagined. “Part of Your World” and its reprise are magically redone with a sense of childlike wonder and joy. 

With a singer as talented as Bailey, this adaptation does right by not stealing her voice entirely. A new song, “For the First Time,” gives the audience insight into Ariel’s internal monologue as she explores land and her relationship with Eric.

Speaking of Eric, Hauer-King’s portrayal of the restless, adventure-seeking prince had audiences leaning into the story just a little bit further. His quest for something more, paired with the growing haze of Ariel’s siren song, made for a fast-paced, almost manic rendition of the new song “Wild Uncharted Waters.” But as his fondness for Ariel grew, the obsession and spell seemed to fade away; broken, of course, only by true love’s kiss.

However, I think by far the most impressive performance of the film — because we knew Bailey would not disappoint — came from Melissa McCarthy’s Ursula. Even Pat Carroll (the original voice of Ursula) would have been proud of the rich and seductive but humorous tone McCarthy brought to the role. 

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This version even added a new backstory on the infamous eight-legged (originally six-legged) sea witch and even had her feigning compassion and cracking jokes while she tricked Ariel into giving up her voice during “Poor Unfortunate Souls.”

For all Halle Bailey has given us with this film, the rest of the cast is just as talented and diverse. In fact, the kingdom our charming Prince Eric hails from is a stunning Caribbean island nation, filled with rich and vibrant culture, music and dancing. Ruled by Queen Selina (Noma Dumezweni), whose deep concern for the island’s future and love for her adopted son are countered only by her fear of angering the sea gods — who’ve caused numerous shipwrecks and ruined voyage attempts.

Among the island villagers, is Jodi Benson, who many know as the original voice of Ariel. She hands our new Ariel a fork — er sorry, a dinglehopper — making a cute connection between the two.

The diversity and vibrancy of the cast and characters extends under the sea to Ariel’s six sisters who received a full makeover and new names. Representing the seven seas are Perla (Lorena Andrea), Indira (Simone Ashley), Mala (Karolina Conchet), Tamika (Sienna King), Karina (Kajsa Mohammar), Caspia (Nathalie Sorrell) and of course, Bailey as Ariel.

Another notable change comes in the form of a subtle but necessary lyric change in “Kiss the Girl.” 

The original lyrics read as follows: “Possible she want you too, there is one way to ask her/It don’t take a word, not a single word/Go on and kiss the girl.”

However, the new version takes a different angle, implying that consent is always needed, even when one person cannot speak. The new lyrics are: “Possible she want you too/Use your words, boy, and ask her/If the time is right and the time is tonight/Go on and kiss the girl.”

When I saw the film, the theater was filled with little girls and their mothers — all equally excited to see a princess who looked like them up on the screen. It was almost overwhelming for me because “The Little Mermaid” has always been my favorite princess story.  It really is not a movie you would expect to cry at the end of, but I did — because representation matters.

Do not listen to the folks online who are bitter about her hair or the casting, “The Little Mermaid” is good and you should go see it. Go see it twice if you can. It’s beautifully done in every way.

And to my mom, who had to sit through this movie approximately 100,000 times when I was growing up, how about one more time?

Contact staff writer Chloe McGowan at 317-762-7848 or Follow her on Twitter @chloe_mcgowanxx.