Review: Beauty and the Beast (2017)

While skeptics and die-hard purists have bemoaned Disney’s “grand plan” of remaking its animated classics into live-action, I have always been up for it. The risk of your beloved animated classics being turned into bloated blockbusters is indeed a possibility. But hey, some remakes just might surprise you. And does Bill Condon’s Beauty and the Beast (2017) do that? Well, not quite.

Beauty and the Beast (2017) pretty much sticks very closely to the renowned 1991 animated film. Perhaps a little too close. It’s more or less, a take-for-take remake. Which is fine, so long as the execution is skillful, and it is. But here lies the rub, with an animated movie there is a greater room for exaggeration in terms of facial expressions, and physical gags. But here, in this live-action film, where they were much concerned with realism, the anthropomorphized household objects lacked the exuberance that it had in the original 1991 film. Animated Lumiere’s suave lip curl was nowhere to be found in his live-action candelabra counterpart. Animated Cogsworth’s slapstick scenes felt a tad drab when performed by his live-action clock counterpart. (And I am still disappointed they didn’t include the “Cogsworth getting stuck in gelatin” scene in the “Be Our Guest” part. Sob.)

But the ballroom scene was as every bit as enchanting and romantic as it was in the animated film. The yellow dress, the score, the waltz! Swoon! The set designers did a fantastic job on recreating the grandness and intricacies of the palace ballroom, with the golden glowy, lighting and all. And the film does have some striking visuals. The castle, the mountains, the snow-covered forest. Bill Condon knows how to do lush and grand. Also no once can deny that this movie has some top-notch choreography. I mean the music is pretty much a given, but the choreography, I was surprised by. Gaston and Le Fou’s pub scene is really every bit as fantastic as they said it would be. Maybe even more. And it helps that both Josh Gad (Le Fou) and Luke Evans (Gaston) are skilled theater performers.

Now Disney had us all riled up about the whole “exclusively gay moment” in this movie. So consider my curiosity piqued. But had Bill Condon not announced during the press junkets about the existence of this said “exclusively gay moment”, said gay moment would have completely went over my head. Said gay moment was very minor. We were like: “Was that it?” But perhaps if we were to consider Disney’s history of LGBT representation, which is zero. I mean aside from fan speculations of this or that character being gay. Nothing has ever been as explicit as this…perhaps. But it’s hardly a positive representation, though. It all felt more like a joke, that said “gay moment”. But can we consider this a step towards the right direction for Disney? Yeah, sure. I guess. But for future moves, they should give more thought into their LGBT representations.

And while the movie does a shot-for-shot copy of the animated movie, it did add a couple of new elements. Like backstories for Belle, the Beast, and Gaston. Perhaps Gaston’s was a little less significant than the others, considering that his backstory is hardly a “story” but a mere line uttered by Le Fou. The whole war, blood, widows line. It gave us a little something about Gaston, but a tad too flimsy to add depth to his character. I would have wanted to know more about The Beast too, and his royal family, and their relationship with their subjects / the townspeople. Belle’s backstory on the other hand is much meatier and did add some emotionally charged scenes to the movie. And perhaps made us understand a bit as to why Belle and Maurice feel like foreigners in their provincial town. That’s because they basically are. But for a movie called “Beauty and The Beast”, The Beast deserves an equal amount of meat in his backstory.

To be honest, I had a hard time figuring out my feelings for this remake considering how much I loved the 1991 version. But I recognize the fact that a live action Beauty and The Beast is quite a Herculean task, and Condon didn’t do a terrible job at it. But I feel that it has less warmth and joy and magic than the animated film.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

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