The film A Mermaid's Tail may have come out in 2017, but it feels very much like a throwback to the family-fantasy films of the late 1990s/early 2000s, though even for something aimed for kids/pre-teens it comes off rather flat. That said, it does feature mermaid lore that's a wee bit different.
The story is mainly about Ryan, a young girl who's just moved with her widowed father to Santa Carla, so they can take care of Ryan's grandfather, Art, who'd recently had a heart attack. Art is a grumpy fisherman whose livelihood is in trouble because fishing in their area has been very difficult lately, which Art blames the "mermaids" for.
Although no one else believes Art that mermaids exist, Ryan discovers that mermaids are real when she rescues one. The mermaid in question is Coral (played by Sydney Scotia), who's curious about the world of humans and befriends the equally curious Ryan. The pair bond quickly, but run into trouble because merfolk are forbidden from fraternizing with humans, plus there's the thing where Art is a fisherman, and the merfolk's enemy. But there's a twist lying in there, for Ryan, Ryan's father, and Art have closer ties to the merworld than either Ryan or Coral could have guessed.
In this film, merfolk have various innate magical skills, including the ability to switch between tail and legs easily and whenever they choose to, so unlike many other depictions, water doesn't trigger transformations at all. These mermaids are also not water-breathing, but instead they can hold their breath for long periods of time, much like other sea-faring mammals of the real world. Best of all, of the three different mermaids who are seen swimming in their tails in the film, all three have tails that look completely different from each other, instead of it being the usual case of near-identical tails in merfolk groups.
There are quite a few underwater scenes, which is nice considering the lovely detail of the mermaids' tails and costumes, but they're a little awkward because they've been really obviously green-screened to place the characters in the ocean, and some of the footage is reused even with different backgrounds, so although it was probably easier to film, it's not as natural-looking as it could have been. Budget limitations also mean the the merfolk's kingdom looks far more sparse than it should be.
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