Disney takes a second shot at its own 1991 classic animated film by the same name. It offers what you would expect: big lavish production values, an array of stars, and a sense that this live action version must achieve parity or surpass the first mega-hit. As I read in another review, Disney seemed to “ask themselves in every scene whether it met the original and the answer was no.” So they added new songs and subplots which served both to lengthen the story and, I suppose, justify the additional material. Considering that Disney intends to remake its other classics like Little Mermaid in live action films, the stakes are very high.
Unless you have never been the original, it’s impossible not to make comparisons. In fact, several scenes are replicated line for line, frame by frame. But there’s an inherent problem with comparing live actors to their animated counterparts. Does Emma Watson look like Belle? (No.) Can you overlook it? (It depends.) Is her voice good enough? (That’s debatable.) This running dialogue ran through my head all during the movie. However, some actors rose above the chatter. Luke Evans as Gaston has a good voice and Josh Gad is a wonderful DeFou. The scenery is beautiful. The production is spectacular. The movie delivers on the extravaganza. It even has some magical moments towards the end that pulled me in.
But Emma Thompson singing the title song isn’t Angela Lansbury. Kevin Kline is miscast as Belle’s father. Dan Stevens’s Beast needs to learn from Richard Armitage’s Thorin and use his eyes to convey emotion under all that fur. The added songs and subplot are unnecessary and unmemorable. The story-line changes in odd ways. Cogsworth, Lumiere, and Mrs. Potts lose their charming animated expressions of the original. Even though the big razzle dazzle Big Our Guest seems to strain to be as Over the Top as OTP could ever be, there is something missing. In sum despite all the lavishness, some essential charm has been lost.
Audiences have apparently been coming in droves to see why Disney would want to risk remaking its own classic. Well, it’s for the usual reason: to insure that these old classics continue to make money by retreading them every generation. That’s not to say that this Beauty and the Beast is a waste of time. I didn’t leave wanting my money back. Those who have never seen the original should enjoy it. It’s just that for old-timers like me, there is a reason why a film becomes a classic after all.