It’s a tale as old as time, yet Disney’s latest remake is everywhere you look these days. I’ll admit, I was pretty concerned. It looked good, it had an all star cast, and yet…I worried. Several reviews said it was, essentially, a live-action scene by scene reincarnation of the animated original. That animated original is one of my favorite Disney films, with Belle being a bit of a hero to me (she loves books and is sassy!).
I saw Beauty and the Beast opening weekend, and I’ve delayed this post because I was still processing. There’s a lot to love, but also some I didn’t like as much. Fear not; a film review of a movie this new won’t contain spoilers!
Contrary to many reviews, 2017’s Beauty varies quite a bit from the animated inspiration. It has a definite setting, in powdered-wig era France. This is actually a bit I’m not a fan of, to be honest. As a fairy tale aficionado, I like my stories to be timeless. The elaborate makeup and period costumes will most likely earn this movie an Oscar nod for hair, makeup, and costuming, but at the expense of fairy tale integrity. It’s also a reminder that Belle and her prince may not live happily ever after, since they’re living in pre-revolutionary France, and we all know what happened to the aristocracy there.
There are new characters, and further details on missing information from our beloved animated film. How long the castle has been cursed, the fate of Belle’s mother, and the village’s ignorance of the castle’s existence are all appropriately addressed. A few new characters pop in, but they’re largely forgettable.
A benefit of animation is the movement and expression of the cursed servants turned objects. The flatter faces and shallower eyes lessen the emotional impact of their expressions. The general muted colors of the castle under the curse effect even Belle’s scenes, with the ‘Be Our Guest’ musical number having less of an impact because of it.
|Lumiere’s expressions are muted in the live action remake.|
|Lumiere and Cogsworth are less animated.|
The character of Belle herself is a little different. She is still strong, and is seen teaching other girls to read as well as inventing things of her own. Conversely, she lost some of her gentle spirit that the animated character possessed. Her gentleness and patience is meant to contrast with the harsh impatience of the Beast, and allows her to teach him to be kind. Unlike the animated character, who intends to sacrifice herself to save her father, 2017’s Belle plots to escape from the moment of her incarceration.
The town, and Gaston in particular, are displayed in an interesting light. Much like the cursed Prince, Gaston is selfish and cruel. He is regularly reined in by LeFou, possibly one of my favorite characters in this version. Unlike in the original, we see growth and change in 2017’s LeFou. This LeFou actually has a conscience, and we see it at war with itself. Gaston, a war hero, struggles between current life and reliving the war, where his cruelty and savageness were useful and admired. In the village, there is room for the hero but only hunting can quench his blood thirst.
Emma Watson played an interesting Belle. Because I’m obsessed with the original animated film, her singing voice didn’t quite meet my expectations. She did well with the character, and added her own flair. It did drive me crazy that her dress was tucked into her apron randomly, but I’m sure there’s a reason for it. I personally prefer the swish-swish of a flowing skirt, but I’m a skirt dork. Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts brought tears to my eyes; Josh Gad’s LeFou impressed me. Gaston was perfectly cast, and I love that Belle’s father was less of a stereotype and more of an individual.
Overall, I enjoyed Disney’s latest remake. I adored 2016’s Cinderella, for the depth it added to the story. Beauty and the Beast added depth to some characters, but fell short on others. Although I’m glad I saw it, it’s not a film I see myself watching repeatedly, like the original. The constraints of being set in a particular time, as opposed the classic fairy tale timeless village, really took its toll for me.