Beauty and the Beast Review

Disney has made a terrible mistake. The overlords of childhood entertainment is attempting to replace our beloved animated Beauty and the Beast with a “new and improved” Beauty and the Beast, now with state of the art 3D effects and live-action humans! Disney foolishly believes the world will fall for this abhorrent bait and switch.

But Disney overlooked one important detail: moviegoers are loyal to a fault.

We, the audience, will stay beholden to our nostalgia. With impermeable fortitude, we will stand firm against this needless update and wholeheartedly reject this– Huh? The new Beauty and the Beast grossed almost half a billion dollars in its first week of release?

Y’all sold out.

Beauty and the Beast had the impossible task of displacing my nostalgia for the animated classic. No easy feat. Nostalgia most often wins, regardless of quality. The original Beauty and the Beast is a magical movie filled with music and wonderment. The new Beauty and the Beast is the same magical movie filled with the same music and the same wonderment, but just not as good.

I have some empathy for Disney. While on a mission to remake their animated classics, they tried a complete retelling of Sleeping Beauty by making Malicifent. It was an awful movie. Ever since that debacle they’ve taken a more risk-free approach. Both Cinderella and Jungle Book took only the tiniest of variations from the source material. So while both new movies were instantly familiar, there were distinct differences that let each movie (and the original) stand on its own.

But Beauty and the Beast decided to make as few of changes as possible:

  • There are new exposition-heavy songs.
  • Everybody is British.
  • The special effects are flashier.
  • Belle’s mom dies from the plague.

Musical Numbers

Inserting more musical numbers was an easy way for Beauty and the Beast to proclaim itself new and improve. And while these new numbers aren’t abhorrent, you’ll have a heck of a time remembering them. The melodies are… existing. The lyrics are… blatant. These new songs seem to exist solely for delivering exposition. If you had any doubts about what characters were thinking, the songs will be more than happy to spell things out for you, right down to the most un-metaphorical detail. But don’t worry, these songs will leave your brain the moment they enter. No harm done.

All of the classic songs are back and as adequate as ever. Emma Watson does her best to belt Belle’s ballads. She struggles. Emma Thompson is tasked with replacing Angela Lansbury’s Ms. Potts. Lol. That’s just not even fair. I take no points off for her attempt.

In a shocking twist, there was one musical number that I liked than the counterpart in the original Beauty and the Beast. “Gaston”. This was a huge surprise to me, but the dynamic between Gaston and LeFou was great. I think most of this had to do with the two of the characters being portrayed as real humans and not bumbling cartoons.

British Accents

In a bold decision, Beauty and the Beast is set in the British part of France. While the source material is thoroughly French, Disney has made the assumption that audiences are not ready to be subjected to French accents. Luckily, actors from England were brought in to showcase their natural, perfectly understandable, non-French accents.

Except Ewan McGregor. His impossible to understand Scottish accent was unacceptable. Since Lumier was the only character with a French accent in the animated version, and talking candles are inherently French, and nobody likes Scottish accents, it was a necessity that Monsieur McGregor showcase his vocal chameleon skills.

As a result, Lumier sounds kind of French. But at least ONE person was attempting to sound French in this French story about French people living in France.

Special Effects

Beast looks great. That was my biggest question going in. If he looked like crap, the entire movie was going to fail. And while it sometimes screams, “green screen,” the sets are spectacular and ornate. The animators and set designers busted their asses to create some special looking imagery.

The “Be Our Guest” musical number takes full advantage of these visuals. But funnily enough, I didn’t feel like it was as magical as the original animated version. Sure, this new version had brilliant colors exploding left and right. And yeah, the choreography of food and dishes was exciting and frenetic. But the same could be said for the original animated version.

At least, that’s how I remember it. The animated version of this song was a magical experience… but maybe not. Is that a pig in a blanket?!

Backstory

The best thing I can say about the new Beauty and the Beast is that every character is fully realized. Belle’s father and LeFou are more than a bumbling Looney Tunes, they display actual emotions. The castle staff are more than props, you legitimately experience their sadness of being cursed.

You are also given some insight into the childhoods of Belle and Beast. These moments are rather brief and not fully explored. But they are present. So, that’s cool I guess. I did appreciate the attempt. I just wished this new knowledge held more purpose for the story telling. Since the majority of the movie is an exact remake, there’s no real spot to make use of these backstories.

Conclusion

Beauty and the Beast is a good movie. But it’s a remake of an amazing movie. So if given the choice, why would you watch the inferior version? The new movie did make some attempts to warrant its existence but it is not enough.

The music is good, but the original music is (with one exception) better. The special effects, but your nostalgia for the original’s animation can’t be outdone. The new backstories are nice, but they aren’t given enough weight to fundamentally change anything. There’s just no getting around the fact that the original did it better.

However, the new Beauty and the Beast would be an excellent replacement for those of us who never saw the Broadway musical… but I’m guessing it’s probably not as good as experiencing that production either.