Sometimes a film comes along that is perfectly constructed to put one at ease, to relax, to make them feel better or happy and transform the situation into a good one. Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid is one such movie, a light-hearted fantasy about a man that falls in love with a mermaid. It is a simple concept to be sure, but one that is so simple and eloquent that there was no chance of director Irving Pichel or writer Nunnally Johnson, messing it up.
So it is that the picture finds Mr. Arthur Peabody on vacation with his wife Polly in the Caribbean where he is trying to recover from a cold with his fiftieth birthday approaching. It puts him in somewhat of a funk, turning fifty, and while he ponders that life-changing moment, he hears a woman singing, far off across the water. Investigating, he discovers nothing, but when fishing one day, manages to catch himself a mermaid. What ensues is a bit of hilarity as he teaches her to kiss, tries to tell people about her but fails each and every time and then discovers that he might be investigated for the murder of his wife, as she had left him days previous to go back home after thinking Arthur might be cheating on her.
The movie is by all accounts, what some would deem just a bit of fluff, and it is. There is no denying it, but it is the best kind, a movie that completely enchants and delights the viewer with its innate charm and the magnetism of its leads. William Powell stars as Arthur Peabody, the man with the mid-life crisis and Irene Hervey as his suffering wife who puts up with all of his shenanigans – at least up to a point. Starring as the eponymous mermaid would be Ann Blyth at twenty years young, a role that would be one of her biggest to date even though it would require no speaking on her part whatsoever. Powell makes every film he is in a joy to watch and when paired with the perfect innocence that Blyth portrays on-screen, the two deliver a magic that brings a smile to the lips of all those that watch.
A few questions do arise when watching this movie that tend to boggle the mind just a wee bit, but they are easily forgiven as the film manages to be a lot of fun. The finale, despite ending on a somewhat happy note, is in fact quite tragic if one stops to think about it. After his Caribbean adventure, Arthur has reconciled with his wife as there was no other possible way for the story to end, but Arthur was truly in love with Lenore and it is painted on his face. Lenore completed him in a way nothing else could and now, one has to assume, he will never get that back.
While it is framed as a good, old-fashioned romantic comedy, Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid changes things up and does so for the better to tell a tale with a little bit whimsy and a bit of the fantastical that will bewitch viewers from start to finish.
4 out of 5