Beauty and the Beast may not capture the magic of the original, but the melodrama added on to fill in the missing backstories of a few characters makes this live action remake just a tinsey bit worth it.
Characters & Storyline
After leaving Paris and settling in a small town, Maurice [note]Kevin Kline[/note] and his daughter Belle [note]Emma Watson[/note] find themselves as the sort of odd ones of the town. Yet, they are some form of happy. Though one day, as Maurice goes to the market to sell the various trinkets, his horse takes him down a path which leads to him meeting The Beast [note]Dan Stevens[/note]. A being whose story allows us to fully understand why he was cursed and now, angry at the world, yet fearful of it just the same, he traps Maurice.
Luckily, Maurice’s horse finds its way home and Belle goes to find her father. Leading to her taking his place and, well you know the rest.
The Comical LeFou as well as The Beast’s Servants
While you will not be laughing as if this was a stand-up special, LeFou [note]Josh Gad[/note] and the Beast’s servants, especially Lumière [note]Ewan McGregor[/note] will have you cracking up. For if it isn’t LeFou and his queer ways [note]The whole controversy about a gay character I think is overblown. LeFou plays up to some gay stereotypes which, for adults, will hint that he is gay, but there is nothing which outright lets you know this man prefers men. Is he friendly with Gaston [Luke Evans], yes. Does he dance with a man and do we see said man enjoy being in drag earlier in the movie? Yup. But there is nothing serious about LeFou’s sexuality which conservative people have a serious reason to worry about. [/note] or the banter Lumière has with Cogsworth [note]Ian McKellen[/note], you, and the kids you may bring with you, will be giggling throughout the movie.
The Added Backstory of The Beast, Belle, and Answering One Old Question
Like Maleficent, what Disney did with this remake is add some layers in order to beef up the story and fill in the gaps. The most notable changes were us getting to know the Beast before he was transformed. When he very much came off like Prince Poppycock. On top of that, there was an explanation as to why Belle’s mother was not in her life and even the mystery of who did Ms. Potts have a child with is answered.
Now, I should add that none of these additions push you to believe, like the animated version, this will be nominated for Best Picture. However, they add enough to these characters to make them more human and definitely compensate for the fact that no one, outside of perhaps Emma Thompson and naturally Audra McDonald, have much of a singing voice.
They Don’t Butcher The Classics But Do Sound Like Autotuned Karaoke
One of the things which will make Disney’s remakes hard to deal with, as can be seen in The Jungle Book, is that Disney isn’t relying on the classics to just play in the background but are having them re-recorded. Which, for this film, wouldn’t have been so bad if it wasn’t for the fact Beauty and the Beast is probably as famous for its songs as it is for its story. So while nearly everyone can carry a tune, they by no measure, blow you away with their singing talents. Though, I will note, “Kill The Beast” was well done and, again, Audra McDonald and Emma Thompson were welcome caretakers to your nostalgia.
Oh, and before I forget, they also change the arrangements a bit and it rarely led to a positive result.
On The Fence
The Extra Melodrama
Learning the fate of Belle’s mother, learning how The Beast gained the personality which led him to become a little twit, this added the kind of depth necessary to feel for these characters. It gave something to work with for the actors who were facing those who grew up with the Disney animated original. Yet, while I liked how they added on details, most of which added on to the story well, the added drama didn’t benefit everyone equally.
What I mean is, with the tone being a tad bit more serious, it required Gaston to lose any of his silliness or campy appeal. With the tone a bit more serious, it leads to it being noted that the staff were turned into objects because it was their fault that their master became the person he did. Which I’m not saying was terrible for the overall film, it got me teary eyed at times in fact, but just like there were very few actors who could sing well, arguably the actors with the meatiest of roles weren’t the best at taking their sob stories to the level needed.
Overall: Mixed (Home Viewing)
By no means is this a terrible film but like The Jungle Book and Maleficent before it, there isn’t a strong reason given to justify the remake. While Watson is lovely, and Gad, alongside McGregor, are a hoot, this seems like nothing more than a lucrative opportunity vs. a story which with modern technology, and perhaps a more liberal audience, Disney could have gone further with. Hence the Mixed label. While very much enjoyable, and the added backstories were welcomed changes, it never fully captures the magic of the original. In many ways, I’d compare this to all the additions J.K. Rowling has brought to the Harry Potter universe. It is nice for the classic to get more fleshed out but it is hard to not feel they should have just done it right the first time rather than retroactively added some trinkets.