Gosh it disturbs me to see this, Gaston – such a beautiful film go to waste. My favorite movie has now been remade – and I’m going to share my dis-TAAASTE.
Disney’s new live-action “Beauty and the Beast” is based directly on their 1991 animated classic – which I’m always proud to tell anyone and everyone who asks – is my ALL-TIME favorite film. Since the day, nearly three years ago, that the studio announced they were doing this new version, I’ve felt a combination of excitement and dread – hoping they would get it right – and fearing they wouldn’t.
I have to say watching this movie was a unique experience – as I witnessed beloved characters, songs and the overall story of “Beauty” get twisted and distorted – in most cases, for no reason other than to be different. This version is an incredible 45 minutes longer than the original. I can understand maybe adding 10-15 minutes for new songs (which are actually quite good) and a few plot tweaks. But it’s impossible not to take offense with director Bill Condon and the two screenwriters for drastically changing the structure of this story simply “to put a new stamp on it”. To paraphrase Mrs. Potts: “There’s something there that wasn’t there before” – only it’s A LOT of somethings. It’s not a stretch to say that this “Beauty” is a completely new film, only with familiar characters and the traditional songs.
Disney’s strategy of basing a live-action film on one of its own animated classics has worked – most recently with 2016’s “The Jungle Book”, which stuck much closer to the storyline of the source material (Mowgli, for example, doesn’t Time-Travel – As Belle and the Beast do here).
You shouldn’t base a movie on an original and then screw with it as drastically as they’ve done here. Without going into Spoiler territory, let me just say:
– The personalities and motivations of several key characters – Maurice, Gaston, LeFou – have been changed.
– Several key plot points – changed.
– There are new backstories and subplots that either feel too modern, forced or simply don’t make a whole lot of sense.
– Even the climax of the film has been significantly altered.
The best scene in this new “Beauty” – and really the only one that captures the spirit of the original is the “Gaston” production number. Luke Evans (Gaston) and Josh Gad (LeFou) go all-out during this high-energy and genuinely good-hearted sequence. It feels like the animated movie brought to life. The rest of this film falls way short in comparison, as Condon is never able to capture the charm, joy and awe of the original, including in the very underwhelming “Be Our Guest” and ballroom sequences. Disney’s 2015 live-action “Cinderella” featured a much more effective, breathtaking and elegant ballroom scene.
OK – so, in comparison, this new “Beauty” is an Epic Fail in the most literal sense – in that it took-on an epic cinematic work – and failed it – miserably. But, how does it work simply as a stand-alone film? Sadly, not much better. “Beauty and the Beast – 2.0” is very dark and intense, which will make it tough for younger kids to embrace. Ewan McGregor, as Lumiere, and Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts give fine voice performances, but their CGI characters (along with most of the others) are borderline-creepy looking and not at all friendly.
And there’s a mean-spiritedness in this movie that is unforgivable. There’s more than one scene in which characters do things that are so “out of character” that the audience will gasp – and not in a good way. As for Emma Watson, she just doesn’t have the on-screen presence (or voice) for this hefty role. You feel like you’re watching Belle’s little sister. It’s the case of a casting that sounded great at the time, but, in retrospect, was a mistake.
Many people are passionate when it comes to complaining about and nitpicking modern remakes and re-interpretations, from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Hairspray” to “The Karate Kid” and “Total Recall”. But the 1991 “Beauty and the Beast” is universally accepted as being in a class all its own – and therefore, it shouldn’t have been screwed with. What Disney has done is make it impossible for anyone who loved the original to like this film. And for everyone else, this movie is passable entertainment, but with a ton of problems.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Beauty and the Beast” gets a C-.
Running Time: 129 min.