(Originally posted 3rd May 2017)
Question: What is the purpose of making a live action remake of Beauty and the Beast?
Answer: To make money.
And that is the only answer you will find here as it is devoid of even an attempt at artistic integrity. The new version is pretty much a shot for shot remake of the original without making any steps towards reinvigorating or updating for a modern audience or even doing us the courtesy of adapting it so that it actually works in a live action formula.
What Disney seem to have missed in this rash of repurposing their previous work is that some things work in animation specifically because they are animated. Animation brings a fluidity and ease of movement and a subliminal sense of the unreal that allows for far more whimsical fancy than easily translates to live action. For a good example, see their rather pathetic attempt to recreate the visual spectacle of “Be Our Guest”.
And here's something else that filmmakers seem to have forgotten in the past twenty years. There is a particular skill to voice acting that does not necessarily translate from all other forms of acting. So take someone like Ewan McGregor, who is very talented but also very low key and naturalistic in style. That doesn't really fit with the overall tone you're trying to produce here. And as much as I love Emma Thompson, she's not Angela Lansbury, is she?
Another fatal flaw in this retelling is that the villain is the most likeable character on the screen. I can't say I've yet been won over by the charms of Luke Evans but he is appropriately cartoonish in the character of Gaston. Of course, rather crucially, this isn't a cartoon, but it is written to be one so his take on it works. He's ably assisted by Josh Gad, who does his best with a boring character whose conflicted personality is never adequately explored. And the character also does nothing to suggest that he is openly gay, by the way, so that really was a load of hype for nothing. But the twosome are engaging and fun whenever they turn up, which rather let's down the ending when they have to be thwarted.
It's in the haunted palace (or whatever it is) that the film really manages to fail, as we are treated to the usual Disney live action concept of one actor and a lot of CGI. And when I say actor, well, there's no need to flog a dead horse, is there? Let's just leave Emma Watson alone for once. Alone with her autotuner.
But speaking of bland acting, Dan Stevens plays the beast. Not bad, not good; just a very nothing performance and a voice that is too thin, even with the added on unrealistic gruffness. And frankly, the CGI on the beast's face and for the beast in general was simply not good enough for such a high profile project.
So what about the music? This is, after all, a musical, with established and beloved songs. Can't fuck that up, right? Unless they slow them down for no apparent reason and create a sound mix so poor that the lyrics are easily lost and the chorus bits are completely illegible. It sounded more like a cacophonous live recording than a clean and crisp studio record. If that was a deliberate stylistic choice then it was an incorrect one. Plus, I believe we established that Ewan McGregor couldn't sing 16 years ago, so why are we trying again?
Alright, so the film isn't good. But... as we get over the slow start and into the actual plot and ultimate climax, I did find myself being drawn in. The love story at it's heart, although full of the usual fairy tale bullshit, is at least compelling and plays out in a way that we can at least believe that these two people could have a bond over similar interests. That's enough for everlasting love in Disney so I'll accept that. In fact, bizarrely, the story is the only element that left me without a bad taste in my mouth. If only there was some way of enjoying that story with a better production.
It is at least engaging enough that it doesn't feel too long at it's unfathomable 129 minutes. I can't believe they make kid's films that long. Oh wait, I do believe we have stumbled upon the ultimate problem here. Disney don't make kid's films anymore; they do remakes of kid's films for an adult audience in the hope that nostalgia and morbid curiosity will create an audience. And they do. You all go and watch them, don't you? You go and watch them because you like that cartoon from when you were a child. Yes, you. You with the Harry Potter novel on the tube. You make me sick.
Yet another pointless piece of work from the Hollywood conveyor belt that is just about passable as a stand alone film but absolutely ridiculous as a remake.
Hear more of my hatred for faddish Disney remakes here:
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