Title: Beauty and the Beast
Release Date: March 17, 2017
Director: Bill Condon
Production Company: Walt Disney Pictures
I’ve been uninterested in Disney’s spate of live-action remakes of animated classics, but since I recently rewatched the 1991 Beauty and the Beast, and the 2017 remake is leaving Netflix soon, I figured I give it a watch to compare and contrast.
Overall, the remake is extraordinarily faithful to the original, with similar shots and dialogue. Some changes include an explanation for why no one knows of the castle in the woods, why the household staff was cursed along with the Prince, and a more active recurring role for Agethe, the enchantress. Le Fou, while still a fop and a toady, feels much more like a human than a charicature. An unecessary flashback scene explains the absence of Belle’s mother and reason for moving to the provincial village. Plus there are four new songs in addition to all the original songs by the legendary, late lyricist Howard Ashman. Overall, this all makes the movie feel bloated and I think it would be more effective if it were trimmed by about 20 to 30 minutes.
The advantage of traditional animation is that there’s already a sense of unreality built in, so the dancing dishware of the “Be Our Guest” number fits in well with the real girl Belle enjoying the show. By contrast, the CGI versions of Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, et al seem to distract from the story and the development of Belle as a character. Despite the additional 45 minutes, the romance of Belle and the Beast STILL feels rushed.
All this being said, I enjoyed the movie more than I expected. Emma Watson is a terrific actor and I liked her take on Belle. A diverse cast, which includes talented vocalists like Audra McDonald really built up the spectacle of the musical. The Beast’s costume in this movie was reminiscent of the 1980s tv show so much that I thought for a moment that they got Ron Perlman to play the role. The movie has a charm and style that is reminiscent of classic 1960s movie musicals like My Fair Lady, Oliver!, Mary Poppins, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.