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Just because you can remake a movie, doesn’t mean you have to.

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.

10 Responses to “Review: Beauty and the Beast (2017) SPOILERS”

  1. Servetus says:

    They’re saying 72% of the audience for this film was women — so if nothing else it’s proof that women can move the market. It’s the 7th most successful domestic opening weekend for an American ever, apparently. …

    That said — I didn’t see the original (not interested) and won’t see this one (curmudgeon) — so I can’t really comment on anything else πŸ™ I do feel like if you’re going to remake a classic you need to add something really huge that’s better or it’s a waste of time.

    • judiang says:

      At the screening I attended, the audience didn’t seem to be children either. Yes, lots of women, young and old.

      Yes, that’s the thing. The songs and bits added weren’t really needed. The sense I had was Disney wanted to replicate the original as live action with some added bits to lengthen it, more like why mess with the original formula. Indeed, why bother to remake it.

      • Servetus says:

        I think they want to cash in on Gen-X / early millennial nostalgia somehow. That’s all I can figure. I don’t know if you remember, but there was this move sometime in the 80s where they showed something or other (Fantasia?) in the theaters again, maybe they recolored or restored it or something, and then you could buy it on VHS and then it was all of a sudden “buy it now on VHS because we’re never going to make this visible again!” When I was cleaning up two summers ago I found a whole box of Disney VHS tapes that I think mom must have bought with future grandchildren in mind. Like who is watching Fantasia on their exclusive edition VHS anymore? But I feel like the Disney company in general is very good at playing the nostalgia card.

        • judiang says:

          Oh yes! Then they rotated re-release of the videos (one story every 7 years or something). I’m not sure if they did that with DVDs. I have two VHS tapes of Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid and no VHS recorder to play them. Doh! Guess I need to skip over DVD and go to Blue Ray? It’s the one downside of keeping classics I guess; the medium keeps changing.

          No doubt Disney has realized it’s sitting on a back catalogue gold mine and wants to enhance their profit margin and reach new audiences. It just seems that this ploy of remaking their own classic without adding even greater value is reaching. But what do I know? The strategy seems to be paying off.

          • Servetus says:

            yeah, they must know what they are doing. There must be some calculation that new content development is riskier than if they just keep cannibalizing their old content and presenting it in new media. Some diehard fan will always want to introduce their child to it, I guess.

            I caught part of a radio show this morning on a new book about fandom (title: Superfandom). I thought the authors were kind of superficial but they made the point that fan communities (which are facilitated by Internet / social media) are starting to drive manufacturer awareness of their own markets. Tbh, in such a small fandom as Armitage’s I can’t imagine it plays much of a role; I always think the marketers are winking at us rather than really responding to us. But who knows, maybe they pay someone to watch Disney fan communities and decided this would pay off.

            There may be a really strong feeling of nostalgia right now. I don’t know how one would quantify that. But childhood seems like a very different thing in many parts of the US.

  2. chattypatra says:

    Thanks for taking the time to review the movie. I am a huge fan of the original. As a matter of fact, going to see it at the cinema is to this day one of my most cherished ‘movie memories’. I remember getting there very early and grabbing what I considered to be the perfect seat. (This was back when there were no Cineplexes to go to; just a couple of theaters at the mall.) Right before the movie began, four teenage boys sat in front of me and I thought the experience was about to be ruined for me, as I was sure they’d spend their time making fun of the movie. The place was packed.

    To my amazement, everyone there was mesmerized once the film started to play; nobody was talking. When the movie ended, there was a moment of silence and then *everyone* cheered and gave it a standing ovation. Yes, even those teenage boys!

    The only reason I will see the movie is because I love the sound of Luke Evans’ singing voice, which is rich and wonderful. Other than that, I still remain highly skeptical that I’ll love this version. Some movies should be left alone, like the classics they are. For example, as much as I like Emily Blunt and Lin Manuel Miranda, I’m not looking forward to the new Mary Poppins movie either.

    Thanks again for the review, Judiang.

    • judiang says:

      Thanks for sharing your story Chattypatra. I felt the same way, but I HAD to go and find out. They are remaking Little Mermaid too. Can’t visualize how they will do it since it really lends itself to animation. Let me know what you think after you see it.

  3. Thanks for the review! I have yet to see either version of the film. Ha! So when I do get to see the live action version, it will probably at home, streaming–so I can pause for breaks if it is running long. πŸ˜‰

    P.S. I think my favorite Disney screening moment was seeing Fantasia (the original version) in a movie theatre in my post college years ,with about 8 college friends and one of their child aged step sons. We were in a sea of little ones at that theatre. And that moment in Fantasia when the petals of the swaying tulips gracefully lower to become the skirts of ballerinas–and all the little children in the theatre went “Ahhhhh!” in unison–made all of us post college aged folks smile.

  4. Esther says:

    Thanks for this! I was wondering how it would compare to the original, nice to read your insights. It’s always tough when they remake something you love…
    I have only ever seen parts of the original and it’s so long ago, I barely remember it. I am very curious about this version and will go see it. I wonder if it holds up when you don’t know the original well.

  5. Servetus says:

    Still not planning to see it, but last night I saw a news segment that suggested that the reason for the live action updates is to make stronger female figures as the Disney audience is demanding more “liberated” women. If so, though, this is not the story I’d have picked to start with.

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