Geeks By Geeks Podcast

A Podcast by Geeks for Geeks. Featured Interviews from Anime to Zombies.

BLOG 002 - Movie Review - Beauty and the Beast (2017)

March 23rd, 2017

The Disney animated classic Beauty and the Beast, released in 1991, is widely considered to be the best animated feature ever put to film.  Hell, it even received an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture; and it's a CARTOON!  For many people of my vintage, it is THE Disney film - the quintessential magical journey - a linchpin of our cinematic upbringing - the perfect mix of characters, music, dancing and wonder.  It marked perhaps, the pinnacle of Disney's Renaissance, which began with The Little Mermaid in 1989 and continued strong throughout the 90's, consistently blessing us all with some of the best family entertainment known to mankind.  It was a magical time for kids and adults alike, and all of those DVD's have a well-earned place of honor in our collection.

So - when Disney announced they would begin producing live-action remakes of their better-known animated films, the news gave me pause.  A slight.. trepidation.  The feeling never bordered on cynical for me though, or caused me to wholly believe it was a cash grab like many remakes these days clearly are.  I give Disney more credit than that. It was however, concerning.  Could Disney remake these films with sufficient deference to the original masterpieces while still providing something fresh and exciting for a new generation?  Could real-life actors bring beloved animated characters to life in a believable and loveable way?  Did they succeed with Beauty and the Beast, version 2017?

Well - Yes.  And No. But, mostly yes.

It is impossible to discuss this film without making overt comparisons to its 1991 template. It’s not a “reboot,” it’s a “remake.”  It begs to be compared, so compare it I will.  I think the best way to review this film is via its constituent components.  We’ll go with: Plot, Characters, Music, and Magic.  Let’s begin!

1. Plot: The plot of the 1991 feature left a little to be desired, if we’re honest with ourselves. Upon deconstruction, there are some shortcomings and questions left unanswered. Why does seemingly no one know of the Beast, or his GIANT castle just off the edge of the village when he and his family lorded over the whole ruddy place, presumably? Why did the Beast have such a beef with Maurice? Why did the staff deserve to be cursed? You get the idea. 2017’s reimagining actually deals with some of these questions - sometimes well, sometimes a tad less gracefully, but the plot of this film simply makes more sense. It’s more concise, the writing ties things up nicely, and all-in-all the story seems more complete. Fair play, Disney.

2. Characters: I’ll be brief on these in the interest of avoiding spoilers. Not that you don’t know what happens in this story, but some character details are worth leaving for you to discover. Belle’s and Beast’s depictions are simultaneously better and worse here. They both receive some well-thought-out and worthwhile backstory which adds some needed depth to their characters. I think Beast was well-acted and I much prefer this version of his character to the animated version (CGI notwithstanding. *Grumble*). You’re given more reason to like and cheer for him and it really works. It’s a good arc. Belle took a step back in some ways and a step forward in others. Their relationship is given a bit more time to develop and breathe and I think it works better. Enough said there. Kevin Kline was delightful every moment he’s on the screen as Maurice. His motivations are clear and his love for his daughter Belle is convincing and unwavering. Best performance of the film by a significant margin. The anthropomorphic housewares, I’m thoroughly mixed on. They’re endlessly charming in the cartoon, but I don’t feel the same here; at least not universally. Ewan McGregor’s candelabra is fun, but his accent flounders at times and he becomes a bit too much. Emma Thompson is good all the way around as Mrs. Potts (performance of titular song notwithstanding), and I feel Sir Ian McKellen was largely flat as Cogsworth, unfortunately. Gaston’s character was less likeable in this film than the cartoon. He is less bumbly and fun, and simply more cruel and disagreeable. Maybe it’s just because he’s an actual person and not a drawing, but I don’t think that explains the problem fully. Josh Gad’s LeFou was very fun in his own right, but his motivations were confusing and his dynamic with Gaston led to some serious head-scratching. Team Gaston/LeFou was sadly one of the weaker aspects of the film. Curious, given that there was so much there to work with.

3. Music: The addition of some new material for this musical adaptation was certainly welcome. On the whole, the new songs were very good. Beast gets his very own song to perform and it fit well within the story, even if the lyrics were a bit formulaic and lackluster. Good stuff anyway and it worked well for me. The classic tunes we all love were all there - but unfortunately just barely. “Belle” was the shining star number of the film and was an excellent opening number with great choreography and editing. However, I found Emma Watson’s voice woefully underpowered and her singing performance to be just passable throughout the film. She’s firmly bringing up the rear in a cast of singers which clearly has much more experience and chops for these sorts of productions. As of now, I’m convinced she was miscast. Time will tell if my opinion changes. While I found Emma Thompson’s voice acting as Mrs. Potts exceptional, I received her rendition of “Beauty and the Beast” less favorably. I’m not sure what it was about it, but it had considerably less heart than Lansbury’s work. The performance choices were rather odd and the song’s phrasing felt choppy, disjointed and noticeably less magical.

4. Magic: … which brings us to Magic. Magic can cure a lot of nitpicking in my book. It’s what going to the movies is all about – especially from Camp Disney. It can cause us to forgive and forget some of the lesser-executed aspects of a film. That is what this remake accomplished for me. It was there for me. I found myself tapping my toes and grinning like an idiot at some parts of the film in which I was entirely swept away. What Disney didn’t get 100% right can be overlooked because it FELT like a much-better-than-mediocre Disney film, and that’s where it met my expectations.

In summary, I DO recommend this film. Even with its flaws, it is great family entertainment.  Fun music, dancing, and heart make this made-with-love movie a welcome companion to the original that we all grew up adoring.  Trepidation laid to rest.  Disney didn't hit it out of the park, but this effort is a solid triple.

 

FINAL SCORE: 7.5/10

Respectfully submitted,

Tom Wester