The problem with doing a spoiler free review of this movie is that everyone, and I mean everyone, has seen the original movie and thus has seen about 80-90% of this film already. I’m not gonna spoil anything new, but don’t expect me to hold back on the plot of the ONLY 2D animated film to be nominated for Best Picture. As the original is near and dear to my heart, there will be some comparison so be forewarned.
For those who need a refresher, my current standing of Disney live action remakes (from 2010 onwards at least) is as thus from worst to best:
- Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland was awful and I didn’t bother watching the sequel. NEXT!
- Cinderella was okay. The prince got more development than he does in most other productions, but every other character was just kinda meh (characters, not acting. That was good). It’s an Eh movie at best. Go watch the 1997 Rogers and Hammerstein TV movie instead. It’s much better.
- Maleficent was Disney’s attempt at Wicked by way of Frozen (which itself was already Disney’s attempt at Wicked), but did pull off a good reimagining of the original Sleeping Beauty movie. Plus Angelina Jolie killed it as the Mistress of All Evil. Honestly, I may have to rewatch it to finalize its placement here.
- The Jungle Book was a darker reimagining of the Disney film with elements of the original book placed in it. It’s an impressive feat of CGI and is very well voice acted. That kid should have been nominated for an Oscar, but whatever. It’s good and it’s getting a sequel.
Beauty and the Beast I had high hopes for. Unlike the other live action remakes, the original animated film is very well known and beloved. It has many fans that will lynch the company if they mess it up and I think I know the reason. The others’ originals were made in the 50s and 60s. This is only 20ish years old so more people grew up with it, even kids today thanks to the home video market. There’s less chance that Disney’ll screw it up, especially considering that almost everyone who was originally involved in making it is still alive. They even got the original composer back.
As for my history with the company, I’m a massive Disney fan. I love most of their movies and, though I’m weirded out that one single company owns a good chunk of our childhoods, I think the properties they’ve acquired (Star Wars, Marvel, etc.) are in a better place under their management. Beauty and the Beast in particular is my favourite Disney film, if not animated film, of all time and Belle is my second favourite Disney princess (first if we don’t count Mulan).
On to the review!
WARNING: SPOILERS FOR BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991) BECAUSE, LET’S FACE IT, YOU’VE SEEN THAT VERSION
Once Upon a Time, a douche French prince insults a disguised enchantress and gets himself and his servants cursed and forgotten until he can learn to love and get someone to love him or they lose their humanity forever. Years later a young woman named Belle, played by Emma Watson, lives with her inventor father Maurice, played by Kevin Kline, in a small village where she’s ostracized by the inhabitants for being well read and not like the other women in town. One day, on the way to market, Maurice comes across the Beast, played by Dan Stevens,’s castle and, having picked a rose as a gift for Belle, becomes his prisoner. Belle finds out and rescues her father by taking his place. While his servants hope that she’ll be the one to break the curse, her father tries to get local war hero Gaston, played by Luke Evans, who’s been pinning for Belle, to help him rescue her. Love blooms and man and monster are revealed. They break the curse, Gaston dies, they get married and live happily ever after. It’s a fairytale you know how this goes.
Can we talk about the music for a second? Alan Menken’s returned to do the music and he’s on top of his game as he ever is. Obviously, they can’t get Howard Ashman back on account of him him being dead, but they got Tim Rice who replaced him for Aladdin so he knows Ashman’s style and he’s worked with Menkan before. Every song you remember is back, some with new lyrics I honestly think might be an improvement on the original, along with new songs that still fit the tone of the film. I might put them on par with the ones in the Broadway show (I should know, I had to do that play for high school). There’s no problem with the music. If I had a problem it’s that Emma Watson’s no Paige O’Hara so her singing’s not as good. It’s okay, but it’s not very strong.
The acting’s all great. Emma Watson makes an excellent Belle, ahead of her time and booksmart. She’s not pulled into the interests of the other girls and does her own thing. Luke Evans is a bit smarter than animated Gaston and I think he’s a bit scarier for it. Josh Gad has managed to make Le Fou a sympathetic character. Emma Thompson nails being Mrs Potts, Ian McKellan is snooty and British like Cogsworth, there’s really not a bad actor in the bunch. But the one who steals the show is, of course, Lumiere, here played by Ewan McGregor. He’s flamboyant, a flirt, and still the only one with a French accent. One of the best moments in the film, like the original, is his Be Our Guest song. It’s probably what you’ll remember the most. While the singing in this movie may have some problems, there’s nothing wrong with the acting.
The sets and costuming in this movie are gorgeous and will probably get an Oscar nom. Then again, Suicide Squad won for Hair and Makeup over Star Trek Beyond (with, you know, ALIENS!!) so that’s probably not saying much. The point is, Disney poured a lot of money into this film and it shows. The Beast doesn’t look as good as he does in the original, but that’s the problem with live action over animation.
As for any arguments about Stockholm Syndrome, I point you towards Lindsay Ellis’s video on the subject as she explains it far better than I ever could.
There’s not much difference between it and the original other than a few things put in to explain a few things that people have had questions about and a smidgen of the original fairy tale because why not? The structure is basically the same. It just has some added scenes. I thought they were fine and didn’t really detract from the story, it just didn’t improve it in anyway. It’s basically the same movie with some embellishments and filmed in live action.
As for the Le Fou gay thing…it’s mainly subtext and jokes. You probably wouldn’t even really know until the end if the creators hadn’t said anything. I’d been annoyed since the announcement that the first gay Disney character was one of the bad guys, but to understand my change in feelings, you’ll have to watch it. I’m not as on the fence about it now. Also, Le Fou’s homosexuality was just something I always sort of assumed. I mean they played it up a bit more in the Broadway show.
The biggest problem people are gonna have with this film is that it’s not necessary. It’s a remake of something that doesn’t need to be remade. And that’s true. It doesn’t. If it’s not broke don’t fix it. The original animated film is perfectly good by itself and this is an obvious cash grab. I would argue Disney doesn’t need a cash grab considering the numbers both Marvel and Star Wars pull in alone, but there you go. I refer you back to my post on multiverse theory. They’re two separate universes with the same core, the original fairy tale or rather the original Disney movie. If you don’t want to watch this one because you don’t like remakes, just don’t watch it. I will say to give it a chance because I think it’s good. Unnecessary, but good. It doesn’t harm the original in anyway. Just chose the one you like.
In comparison to the others, I’d say that Beauty and the Beast is in my Top 3 Live Action Disney Remakes, though there’s only four others so that’s not saying much.