Disney have always been big when it comes to popular entertainment but lately they seem to be monopolising popular entertainment on a cosmic level. Outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, resurrecting the Star Wars franchise and churning out hit after hit with Pixar not to mention their own Walt Disney Animation Studio, the House of Mouse are also on the rampage, returning back to the well and doing high budget live action remakes of their animated classics. We’ve already had Cinderella and last year’s The Jungle Book. With the release of Beauty and the Beast, Disney are going back to the classic animated features of their 90s renaissance. At this point, The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Aladdin and Mulan are ALL in some form of production.
Based on Disney’s 1991 animated classic, Beauty and the Beast is Disney’s big glossy remake of one of it’s most beloved movies.
Tale as old as time, you may skip the next two paragraphs if you’ve heard this before.
You have Belle (Emma Watson) a young woman living in a small French town with her clockmaker father (Kevin Kline). Belle is considered a bit of an odd ball by her small town community as she prefers the company of books rather than submitting to the affections of local heart throb and toxic mega-cunt Gaston (Luke Evans).
One fateful day, her father stumbles on an enchanted castle that is locked within a permanent state of winter. After becoming imprisoned by the castle’s beastly master (Dan Stevens) over a misunderstanding, Belle takes it upon herself to rescue her father by taking his place as prisoner. As her father escapes, she is imprisoned for about 5 minutes before she is released by the castle’s servants who like the beast are victims of a curse that gives them the bodies of inanimate objects. So you have the candlestick Lumiere (Ewan McGregor), the clock Cogsworth (Sir Ian McKellen) and tea pot Mrs Pots (Emma Thompson) to name the A-team. Once she is released, she is given access to a library full of books, cooked splendid meals, sung to and Hell, even the beast seems to be alright once you get to know him and the tragic history and circumstance he is victim too.
Can beauty truly love the beast before the last rose petal falls? Will true love break the curse?
Well you know how this goes down.
With a budget of $160 million, Disney are piling all the resources in an attempt to make this the deluxe version of Beauty and the Beast. At times the 2017 version is a shot by shot remake of the animated version. The original was just under 90 minutes, but the new version invents new subplots, such as the mystery surrounding the demise of Belle’s mother; it also includes several new songs from the theatrical broadway musical padding it out to just over 2 hours in length.
No one can deny that the movie looks fantastic, the sets are huge and highly detailed, the costumes are all accurate of the animated original. It’s like your back at Disneyland, which has that same level of care and attention to it’s design. Most of the actors shine in their roles, Emma Watson is solid but not exactly stretched as Belle, Luke Evans is annoyingly talented as Gaston, Josh Gad as is even better as LeFou. Dan Stevens is effective as the beast, cantankerous at first but softening up as the film goes on.
The animated cast, are also great. You’ll get that Disney third act when a rag tag team of living but inanimate objects sock it to the angry mob. Some will find Ewan McGregor’s French accent a little to silly, but it’s earnest in it’s own way. Sir Ian McKellen is perfectly suited to Cogsworth, Emma Thompson does that weird cockney accent for Mrs Potts, she doesn’t quite have the pipes of Angela Lansbury, but she’s Emma Thompson and therefore rules just by principle.
It’s all well made but somehow, all is not enough. You’ve seen this movie before and of course the new version with all it’s resources could never hold a Lumiere to it. Last year’s The Jungle Book was a much better retelling of the 60s animation, that paid homage whilst adding to the story with humour and intelligence.
Despite the dollar value of it’s production, this version of Beauty and the Beast was always going to be an expensive cover of the 1991 animation. Whilst it is entertaining to see everything brought to life with modern technology, to hear the modern renditions of the old favourite songs, to see that amount of money invested in cinematic fiction! It just lacks the magic that was accomplished by a team of plucky animators back in the 90s.
It’s an indulgent cake. You’ll eat it down and enjoy it, but it just wasn’t as good as that cake you first had all those years back.