Apparently Disney is planning to churn out at least another 10-15 live-action remakes over the coming years. Why? Money of course!
Director: Bill Condon
Cast: Emma Watson; Dan Stevens; Luke Evans; Kevin Kline; Ewan McGregor; Josh Gad; Ian Mckellan; Stanley Tucci; Emma Thompson.
Synopsis: Having turned his nose up at a desperate beggar-cum-enchantress, a proud young prince and his servants are cursed to live their lives as a hideous Beast and animated household items in an enchanted castle, the only cure for which is for the prince to fall in love and be loved in return before the last petal falls from a magic rose. When Maurice, a local artist and tinker, is captured by the beast, his beautiful and slightly oddball daughter, Belle, takes his place as a prisoner only to discover a softer side to the Beast. Meanwhile, Maurice desperately tries to convince the nearby town of the threat posed by the Beast in an attempt to get his daughter back.
Run Time: 2hr 09min
Let’s just get this obvious fact out of the way: If you like the original animated classic, then you’re probably going to enjoy this movie. Like the live-action Cinderella (2015), this is a very faithful reproduction of Disney’s original animation, with a couple of tweaks and additions thrown in for good measure – which, for the most part, make sense for this live-action retelling. Now, before we get into it, I did enjoy this film, but there were a few things that didn’t sit well with me, so apologies to any mega-fans that I might offend… actually, retract that; I don’t care.
First we’ll tackle the things I liked. The CG representation of the Beast is pretty great. I enjoyed Steven’s performance easily as much here as I did Robby Benson in the original, if not more so. With a longer running time, comes greater opportunity for fleshing out the characters, and this is tackled well with the Beast, Belle and a few other characters. Instead of simply being horrible from the start, we find out why the Beast grew to act that way and why his household are also partially to blame. We also discover more about Belle’s past and why she and her father, Maurice (Kline) have re-located to the small town.
All of the original’s songs are faithfully recreated here and, for the most part, I liked them. They were fun, vibrant and the actors – most of whom are far from professional singers – did a good job with the vocals. The standouts for me were Luke Evans as the villainous and comedically narcissistic Gaston and Ewan McGregor as Lumiere, despite his funky French accent (that’s a point from the original too… this is set in France, but only a couple of characters have accents?). Emma Watson did a fine job with Belle’s singing, though her voice, like several other cast members’, lacked the power and presence to really carry the vocals above the swelling score. There are also several new songs in this production and tweaks to the lyrics of the originals, which I actually liked. They worked well in context and didn’t seem out of place as I thought they might.
I also enjoyed the slightly different take on a few of the characters. You’ve probably heard about the whole LeFou (Gad) being gay thing causing a stir, but I think it makes sense for the character. Why else would he follow around that gorgeous twerp, Gaston? Critics have been divided on whether this was a good idea, whether Gad plays it as too much of a stereotype and whether he actually wasn’t gay enough. I have to say, I like the idea and most of this was executed well, more with subtle nods to the truth (vis a vis, Smithers in The Simpsons), however some moments were slightly stereotyped and overplayed, but this was not detrimental overall. He actually had something of a character arc, rather than simply being a stooge for Gaston.
Now the stuff I didn’t like so much. Firstly, although the CG is good, there were areas where I felt that it was a bit of a let down – and these were usually during the most mundane sequences. Early on there was a very obvious green-screen super-positioning that really stood out for me, with the perspective of the characters not matching the background. Pedantic, yes, but if you’re going to do the rest so well, then why stop there? Additionally, while this movie obviously does have jokes and humorous moments in it that work, several of these quips and slapstick elements fall flat, again partially due to CG. The wardrobe character in particular comes a cropper of this, combining not only a gag that isn’t funny, but bad CG to boot. Personally I just thought they dealt with the character in the wrong way, but again, this is minor.
I suppose there are two larger issues that hung over me while I watched this film. The first, and by far the lesser of the two, is the overly obvious attempt to make Belle more of a strong female lead. I know, I know, I’m making a comment on feminism, but hear me out! I’m a feminist myself, so SHUSH. I know Watson has become something of a crusader recently, with the whole ‘he for she’ thing and so on – and I have a huge amount of respect for her in that regard – I just wish that she hadn’t played this aspect up so much in interviews about this film and regarding Belle. Apparently she only accepted the role on these grounds and came up with several of the character changes herself. That’s fine. The changes for Belle DO make sense, and I like that she is smart, witty and mechanically minded. But there are some moments when this is shoved in your face a bit too much, like ‘LOOK it’s a STRONG and CAPABLE female lead character. You NEVER see that!!’ But these days, you really do. A lot. It’s not a new thing at all. For starters, Belle in the original is a headstrong and independent woman who stands head and shoulders above most of her male peers. Hell, we’ve just had Moana (2016) released, which is a brand new Disney film with a strong, independent and inventive female lead – hero even. Frozen (2013) tackles this as well to name but a couple… Once again, it’s a minor detail, but I just wish she hadn’t made such a big deal of it in interviews and that some of these scenes were downplayed just a little so as to make them feel more natural.
My biggest misgiving though is the fact that this movie exists at all… It’s still a good, enjoyable film with a talented cast. But it didn’t need to be made at all, did it? Are we not happy enough with the original, which is still pretty mesmerising to this day? I’ve got a rant coming soon along similar lines, but in the end, this is pure and simple another Disney cash-grab. They know you like the cartoon, which has a huge audience worldwide, so OBVIOUSLY millions of people will fork out their hard earned cash to go and see this. And they have – a record breaking opening weekend saw this movie take in over £18 million in total, with the second highest grossing Saturday ever, behind only The Force Awakens (2015). And that’s just the UK! How does $170 million sound?… I just feel that this whole issue detracts from the film from a moral standpoint… of course it doesn’t impact on the quality of the film, but it was certainly an issue that stood at the back of my mind the entire way through the film. It’s just a blessing that it was well executed, because if this was a bad movie then boy, would I rip Disney a new one! It’d just be nice to see the launch of NEW creative efforts by Disney, rather than this obvious penchant for churning out updates to past endeavours, which, let’s be honest, requires a lot less effort. But it sure does bring in the big bucks.
In all, this is an enjoyable flick. It changes up some elements of the original, but, essentially, if you’ve seen that, then you’ve seen this – there are no major changes. The musical numbers are nice and upbeat, it’s vibrant and visually appealing, and has a pretty great, well suited cast. If this all sounds good to you, or if you’ve got kids who haven’t seen the animated film, then give this one a look for sure. This is definitely one for the kids. If you’re not so bothered about the original, don’t have kids or don’t think this film can do enough to improve on the animation, then you won’t lose sleep giving this one a miss. I just can’t help but think Disney’s creative juices could be put to better use.
So there you have it. I did enjoy it, but it can’t replace the original. Have you seen it yet? If so, tell me what you think in the comments below, because I’d love to know! However, if I ever see any comments about feminism on this post, I won’t be addressing them FYI. Thank you so much for giving this a read. If you liked what you saw, then you can follow me on Twitter @snakeintheplane for updates where I infrequently get Beasty. See you guys on the next Snake in the Plane!