Beauty and the Beast Live Action Movie Review

As a kid I really enjoyed the Beauty and the Beast Disney cartoon. Almost everything about the film was great, from the music, the animation, the amazing scenery and backdrops, and the incredible job Disney did with the ‘Tale As Old As Time’ ballroom scene which perfectly blended still frame and computer rendered animation and to this day still stands the test of time.

Character wise there was something for everyone. Lumiere was hilarious and charming and pushed the story along. Mrs. Potts was endearing and lovely. Chip was playful. Cogsworth was the Winney the Pooh Rabbit and kept things grounded. Lefou was comical relief, and Gaston in my opinion stole the show. I pretty much liked everything about the movie except the primary titular character – Belle.

This new live action version of Beauty and the Beast pretty exaggerated the few things I disliked about the animated movie, and ruined the things I enjoyed.

Belle was already a pretentious, stuck up, gold digging bitch in the original but at least she lived up to the name, and was amazingly beautiful (ya know, for a cartoon).

Emma Watson is lovely, pretty, and cute as a button but I wouldn’t define her as classically beautiful. And if you didn’t like Belle before, you’re not going to like her now. She’s ruder, more pretentious, and more stuck up than ever before except now she’s just a weensy bit less beautiful and doesn’t sing as well.

This movie really went out of its way to paint Gaston as a bad guy. You might be thinking, wasn’t Gaston already the villain of the first movie? And I would respond, no, no he wasn’t. Not convinced, read my blog from Jan 2015, The Cold Hard Truth About Beauty and The Beast. In the animated film, Gaston and the village legitimately thought that Belle’s father, Maurice, was insane and that’s why they had him committed to the asylum. In the live action movie, his motivation was changed entirely to extorting Belle to marry him. It’s as if Disney thought “the lead straight, white, male was villainy enough in the original, so we reaaaalllly need to drive the point home this time”.

There was also possibly some anti-gun sentiment injected into the movie. In the animated version Gaston used a bow and arrow when he confronted the Beast. In the live action this was changed to a pistol. Because, ya know, guns are bad mmmm’k.

The new film pretty much slaughtered the barroom ‘Gaston Song’ which was one of my favorites from the original. LeFou gave people in the bar money to convince them to sing along in praise of Gaston even though in the cartoon, everyone in town legitimately likes Gaston and doesn’t need to be bribed. And they got rid of Gaston’s awesome three-shot-musket scene!

The remake didn’t seem like a live action movie as much as it did a play that just so happened to be filmed. That might seem like the same thing to many people but there is a difference in that plays have more flare and drama. Everything from the impassioned inflections to the wardrobe to the action is intentionally dramaticized, and would seem awkward in a movie, especially a live action movie. There is a reason for this. In plays, not all the audience has the same view. However a 6 foot actor cannot be blown up for viewers in the back. To accommodate audience members in the far back, the characters have intentionally simple wardrobes with glaringly obvious colors, and disproportionately large props that will make them easier to discern from long distances. Since filmmakers can zoom in on a specific character when the scene calls for it, the overly simplified opera style wardrobe looks out of place, and almost cartoonish in live action films.

Basically, while the animated film was visually stunning, the live action film was visually unappealing. I disliked how the movie looked.

The pace of the new film was also very fast. There was hardly a moment to soak it all in before moving to the next scene. I think Disney felt they could get away with this because there isn’t much to think about if you’ve already seen the animated 1991 film. I didn’t like that Disney presumes you’ve seen the animated film. After all, that was close to 20 years ago and a huge part of the target audience probably wasn’t even alive when that movie was made. Even so, as someone who has seen the original countless times, I like for a movie to stand on its own two feet and not be dependent on another film when it’s not part of some greater franchise (ala Marvel’s MCU).

And not to be ‘that guy’ but it did seem a little weird that about 20% of the villagers/cast were black. The story takes place in 1700’s France, and not only that, 1700’s rural France. It just seemed forced. I won’t call it full blown historical correctionism because after all, this is a made up story about singing dishware but there is still a historical context, and just as you wouldn’t expect to see a 20% white populace in 1740’s Beijing, you wouldn’t expect to see that many black people in 1740’s Europe.

I don’t usually give bad reviews of movies and TV shows as you can see from my past reviews. I have what many would consider to be a low bar when it comes to cinema, but I really did not like this movie. It wasn’t fun. The songs you know and love weren’t as good. New songs you don’t know and won’t enjoy were introduced which no one is ever going to sing. The characters lacked that certain something, that je ne sais quoi from the animated film that made them so likeable. For a Disney movie this sure felt a lot like a B Studio production both in terms of final product and project foresight.

I give Beauty and the Beast (2017) a 3/5 and really don’t care to ever watch it again.

Step aside Belle. There’s a new best princess in town, and her name is Moana.

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