THEN & NOW is a series that appears periodically on The Holy Mess in which I take a look at movies and their remakes. Today’s edition of THEN & NOW: Beauty and the Beast takes a look at 1991’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and its 2017 live action remake, which I just saw on Netflix.
More often than not, I find that the original movie is substantially better than its remake, and I think most people agree with me; my hard and fast rule is that no remake is necessary unless alterations are made to reflect the changes in society or politics or behavior that have occurred since the original movie was released.
Every now and then a new movie comes along that sometimes equals the original, and once in a blue moon we get a remake that actually manages to surpass the original. This is a fun series as we look not only at the differences in the movies themselves but also at the differences in what was happening in the world when each of the films was released.
Actually, this installment will be a little different than most because I’ve already waxed rhapsodic over the original this last March when the live action remake was first released. If you didn’t catch my thoughts on the original animated masterpiece, click here.
Ultimately, with this remake I was disappointed.
For those of you who choose not to take a look at my review of the 1991 animated film, let me briefly save you some time by stating that I believe it to be the best animated motion picture in the history of cinema. I loves me some ZOOTOPIA, I flipped for THE LITTLE MERMAID, I roar for THE LION KING, but BEAUTY AND THE BEAST stands head and shoulders above the rest. It is the Meryl Streep of animated films.
Interestingly enough, the question I had in my mind when starting to watch the remake remained as the ending credits rolled: Why mess with perfection?
Except for the obvious monetary gain that could result from this venture, why would someone need to remake a film that, to quote Disney’s own Mary Poppins, is “practically perfect in every way”?
Truth be told, I didn’t expect to like the remake when I hit the PLAY button, but I expected to like it more than I did. Come on, you know what I mean! I think we all walk into a movie with a certain amount of either trepidation or excitement. And there’s nothing more wonderful than to have our expectations overruled.
Unfortunately, I found this version flat, uninspired and completely lacking in the “magic” that made the original so memorable. I can’t quite fathom how this became the most popular film of the year.
Let me just start with what I believe to be the basic fundamental problem.
I don’t care how good your special effects are, there are occasions when nothing beats animation. The 1991 BEAUTY AND THE BEAST found the ideal way to meld state of the art animation with themes, while still relatable to the younger generation, that were a bit more grown-up.
I’m sorry, but seeing a CGI-produced dancing candelabra and clock and wardrobe, while technologically impressive, just doesn’t have the same visceral effect to an audience as seeing the same in animated form. There’s something special and almost sacred about the format.
And apologies to any HARRY POTTER enthusiasts out there, but I have not yet been bitten by the Emma Watson bug, and I don’t quite yet understand the popularity surrounding her. While I think she was commendable in some of the more dramatic moments, I found the majority of her performance a bit wooden, particularly in the musical numbers. The opening “Belle” number, which I consider one of the two or three highlights of the whole production, left me numb and produced a cloud of skepticism that permeated throughout the rest of the film.
It’s impossible not to consider what a young Julie Andrews could have done with this role, particularly when the mountaintop climax of “Belle” is so clearly inspired by THE SOUND OF MUSIC.
I commend the filmmakers for opening up the production a bit, but I unfortunately found the additional expository opening and insights into Belle’s childhood unnecessary and the new songs run-of-the-mill.
On the positive side, I want to give some credit to director Bill Condon, who is no stranger to musicals. He wrote the screenplay for CHICAGO, a screen musical I love, and also directed DREAMGIRLS, a screen musical I didn’t quite care for as much. There are a couple scenes that really stand out due to his directorial flourishes, particularly Gaston’s big number in the middle of the film, which is the one scene I think might improve upon the original.
I also found Kevin Kline quite moving as Belle’s father, and for some reason I felt a strong fondness for Ewan McGregor as Lumiere, although “Be Our Guest” doesn’t hold a candle to the original (pun intended).
Overall, I felt a sense of dread, as I know there are live action films being made for ALADDIN, THE LITTLE MERMAID and THE LION KING among others. I can’t help but wish the time and energy and money being invested into these remakes would be used instead to payroll some original productions. I know there are thousands of new tales out there waiting to be told! Yes, tales as old as time…
Did you love this remake or were you unimpressed? Share in the comments below.
Previous BEAUTY & THE BEAST Related Blogs
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