The Little Mermaid is in the top five of movies I’ve seen more than any other. In 1990, my roommate and I hijacked a dayroom TV and showed the movie every night for a month. With that foundation, I probably had higher expectations than I should have for an unnecessary film.

The CGI — er, “live action” remake of The Little Mermaid leaves a lot to be desired for long time fans of the animated movie.

Let’s talk about the dinglehopper in the room — setting the story in the Caribbean instead of whatever-white-world fairy tale coastline. Representation on screen matters. Setting the story in a place of mixed cultures gave an opportunity to round out the cast with something other than caricatures. If you’re the sort of person who gets bent out of shape about a Caribbean Mermaid being black, just look at her sisters — each smartly cast and costumed to represent the “7 Seas”. It seems King Triton gets around. If you don’t know the name Colleen Atwood, you should. She’s brilliant.

As colorful as the cast is, the film mutes most of its brightness. As an effort to try to tell a realistic story, it fails. There are mermaids and magic potions and tortured souls, realism washed out with the tide. A lot of the screen feels empty when it shouldn’t. The several crowd scenes seem like there just weren’t enough extras on set that day.

“Under the Sea” was a vibrant production number in the animated film. In this version, it’s a flat solo number with CGI that blooms too late to save it. After losing her voice, Ariel has a solo number. She’s apparently singing in her head, because her lips don’t move, until they do and then don’t again. It just feels out of place. With lyrics by Lin Manuel Miranda, I’m sure the new songs by themselves are good, but the film editing distracts. The visual around Prince Eric’s solo is disjointed and misses the beats. It just comes off as boring. The visuals just didn’t hold up the music in a way that animation did. They cut “Le Poissons” — feeling it was too cartoony — but left in a dialog reference, which highlights the omission.

It seems like the filmmakers tried to fill the plot holes in the animated version with single lines of scattered dialog. Like all castoff dialog, these are unneeded and targeted for critics rather than the real audience. Ursula explains that the mermaid’s song is magic (sirens’ song), and she is really taking away Ariel’s mermaid powers. Ursula makes it so that Ariel cannot remember that she’s supposed to kiss Eric, a concept that is mentioned twice then mostly ignored. It is clear that Ursula is actually trying to steal King Triton’s crown, and Ariel is just her means to that end.

All in all, the movie will be enjoyed by people who don’t have the animated film as a foundation. It is in comparison to the original that most faults are found.