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Beauty and the Beast (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 20, 2020

Beauty and the Beast (2017)


Starring Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Audra McDonald, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci, Nathan Mack, Hattie Morahan, Adrian Schiller, Haydn Gwynne and Zoe Rainey.

Screenplay by Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos.

Directed by Bill Condon.

Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures.  129 minutes.  Rated PG.

Even in full knowledge that the Walt Disney Studios is on a mission to make live-action films of most (if not all) of their animated classics, it still feels odd that they would consider remaking Beauty and the Beast.

First of all, the film is merely 26 years old. A single generation moved on since its release. In those 26 years, the original animated classic has never been forgotten or left behind. It is still at the forefront of the Disney animation renaissance. It has been watched by millions of kids, who grew up to show it to millions of their kids.

It’s rarely been off the market as far as video for any extended times. The multiple video re-releases mean that it is often in many people’s video libraries in several different formats. (I personally have it on VHS, DVD [two different editions] and Blu-Ray.) It has also had several return engagements to the theaters over the years.

It is still considered a classic. It has still been seen by almost everyone. The bloom is far from being off the rose.

So why, you may ask, remake it when everyone knows and loves the original?

Good question. But they have.

The pleasant news is that the new live-action Beauty and the Beast, while probably unnecessary, is a fine adaptation of the original film. It’s not as good as the animated classic – what could be? – but it comes intriguingly close.

The new Beauty and the Beast is longer and definitely somewhat darker than the original film. The extended play time allows them a bit more room to explore some of the backstories and room to add a few new songs. Surprisingly, “Human Again,” a last minute cut from the original film which was later added in reissues and the Broadway musical, has gone missing again, though a new song called “Days in the Sun” essentially serves the same purpose, story wise.

The characters are mostly pretty much the same. Belle’s father Maurice (Kevin Kline) is played as less eccentric than in the original film (leading you to question why the townspeople agreed with Gaston’s claims that he was crazy). There was a lot of buzz before the release that Beauty and the Beast would include Disney’s first gay character, but honestly despite the fact that Gaston’s lackey LaFou (Josh Gad) appears to be questioning his sexuality and have a bit of a man-crush on his friend, he doesn’t exactly hop out of the closet.

Emma Watson and Dan Stevens do terrific work as Belle and the Beast, not exactly making you forget the animated characters so much as inhabiting them, but also adding a certain something of their own to the mix.

The castle staff is the one place where the film stumbles slightly. A walking talking candlestick and clock and dust mop and teapot may look natural in an animated world, however despite yeoman work in the special effects division to make computer animated characters, they all look a little off-kilter in a live action film. It’s not a make or break problem for the movie, but it is a distraction throughout.

In the end the live-action Beauty and the Beast is like a nice cover version of a favorite song. It takes something you love, changes it a bit, but keeps the flavor, and can be wonderfully enjoyable. However, in general, it cannot quite recapture the magic of the original. And, speaking of cover versions, for the record, John Legend and Ariana Grande’s closing pop single take on the classic title track is just lovely, but it’s no Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson.

There is probably no reason (aside from money) for a new, live action Beauty and the Beast. It will not make anyone forget the original. However, I give Disney credit for taking such an iconic tale seriously. This Beauty and the Beast may not be as good as the 1992 Beauty and the Beast, but it’s surprisingly close. If this film had to be made, I guess that is the best that you can ask for.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2017 All rights reserved. Posted: April 16, 2017.

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