Minor spoilers follow. Also, I just realized my dad is in the reflection of this photo.
I was unfortunately a week late in seeing Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast”. I missed the best time to publish a spoiler-free review, so instead, I’ll give a “last minute” review on the movie, which will include some critiques and praises that contain spoilers.
Well, they’re basically just spoilers from Disney’s 1991 original animated “Beauty and the Beast”. So if you’ve seen that, then you’re in the clear.
Yes, it’s a retelling
“Beauty and the Beast” continues Disney’s latest trend of remaking its animated classics in live-action. It is essentially a retelling of the original film, with some new and noteworthy changes. Thus, you mostly know what to expect.
Many critics have been up in arms with “Beauty and the Beast”, more so than previous live-action remakes like “Cinderella” and “The Jungle Book”, for being too similar to the original. There are some scenes that are exact recreations of the original, and this includes dialogue. The scene where the town rallies to kill the Beast is the worst offender. If you were not a fan of the original “Beauty and the Beast”, you will most likely feel the same about this remake.
But there are some changes
“Beauty and the Beast” is one of Disney’s most-beloved animated movies. At the very least, the original is one of my favorite Disney movies. For fans and frequent-viewers of the original, the remake changes enough to make this new version worth seeing.
New lines of dialogue are hilarious, and make the movie even funnier than the original. These new lines come mostly from LeFou, Gaston, and Lumiere.
The music and original score remain as entertaining, magical, and emotionally moving as ever before. As far as my knowledge goes, the remake adds four new songs, and while some are nothing more than a verse, they fit into the original’s musical style and sound. They may not be remembered in the long run with classics like “Be Our Guest” or the titular “Beauty and the Beast”, but they complement the movie’s plot well.
Speaking of the plot, the remake actually finds a way to improve it. The early lives of Belle and the Beast are elaborated upon, and this frankly does wonders to the plot as a whole. While his backstory is still flimsy, we now have some reason for why the Beast is so grumpy. It appears he had a tragic childhood where he was neglected by his father. Based on recent interviews with Disney, it appears we may even get a prequel about this. And looking at the money this remake is pulling in, this prequel seems likely.
Three C’s: Cast, Characters, CGI
The cast of “Beauty and the Beast” adds extra charm to the remake. Josh Gad is delightful as LeFou, Luke Evans is spot-on as Gaston, and the voice cast does admirably. Emma Watson does a mostly great job as Belle, but her performance falls flat during some all-CGI scenes, specifically “Be Our Guest”. Her forced facial expressions took me out of the song and reminded me that I was watching computer generated, rather than real, cutlery. Shucks.
Unlike its cast, the CGI in “Beauty and the Beast” is mostly okay, and not great. The main offender is the Beast, who looks fake when next to Emma Watson’s Belle. While the Beast himself may stand out as fake, his facial animations are fantastic. Dan Stevens truly emotes despite the technological barrier.
Filling plot holes
“Wait a second, Chip has siblings? Is Mrs. Potts a terrible, neglecting mother that only loves one of her kids?”
“So you’re telling me the prince of a part of France gets transformed into a monster and the townspeople just completely forgot about him?”
“What happened to Belle’s mother? Why do we ask this about every Disney princess?”
“Does Belle just fall in love with the Beast as a psychological response to being his prisoner? You know, like Stockholm syndrome?”
The original 1991 “Beauty and the Beast” had quite a few plot holes. Of course, it is a children’s movie with dancing plates and disguised enchantresses, but still. The remake actually fixes some of these issues. Chip no longer has any siblings, which makes Mrs. Potts a much better mother. The surrounding land around the Beast’s castle is cursed with a memory spell, making the villagers forget about the prince altogether. The movie provides a quick but fulfilling backstory for Belle which finally explains what happened to her mother.
And as for Belle’s love for the Beast? Yeah, that isn’t fixed in the remake. That’s a harder nut to crack.
Someone needs to address Belle’s village
There is still one massive and confusing thing that lies at the center of “Beauty and the Beast”.
Why do the people in Belle’s village hate reading so much?
It’s the only reason the villagers think she’s so “peculiar”! Seriously, it’s starting to bother me!
The first big musical number of “Beauty and the Beast”, titled simply “Belle”, is all about how strange the movie’s heroine is. But the village’s only reason is because she really likes to read!
“Look there she goes, the girl is so peculiar. I wonder if she’s feeling well. With a dreamy, far-off look, and her nose stuck in a book, what a puzzle to the rest of us is Belle,” the villagers sing.
Come on, have they even tried to pick up a book? Maybe they would like it too, and Belle and the villagers could be friends. You know, rather than the village try to lock her up in an asylum.
These people sing about how much of a social outcast Belle is, but they all seem to know who she is. They all say “hi” to her, and as the nice, normal person she is, Belle says “hi” back. Some social outcast she is!
A few minutes later in the movie, Belle tries to teach a villager’s girl how to read. The townspeople react as if Belle tried to kill the girl! They spill Belle’s laundry and practically run away in panic.
And I only became more confused later in the movie.
During “Gaston”, another song in the movie, LeFou can’t even spell Gaston’s name. These people not only shun people who read, but they can’t even spell! This is a serious issue! How do they keep records or make signs?
Hopefully that rumored Beast prequel will explain why the villagers hate reading so much. Maybe it was part of the curse. Only time will tell.
“Beauty and the Beast” is a delight for fans of the original 1991 animated classic. Its new songs and funny dialogue are enough to warrant seeing the remake. The original music and characters are as entertaining as ever. The remake even fixes some issues with the original’s plot too. Despite these praises, the remake is mostly a direct retelling of the original, so do not expect it to win over those that disliked the source material. While some may view the remake as a cheap cash grab, it is clear that Disney, thus far, is treating these classic properties with love and care in the transition to live-action. With new music, an expanded plot, and such a high quality cast, this remake is much more than just a cash grab. If a live-action “Beauty and the Beast” can make me cry more than the original, then I would say it’s a win in Disney’s book.