Anthony's Film Review
Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Disney's live-action remake of its 1991 animated classic is still an excellent tale as old as time...
Let's momentarily go back a decade to the year 2007. That was when Disney released the hybrid animated and live-action movie Enchanted, which had fun experimenting with bringing elements from Disney animated movies into the realm of live action. In my review of that movie, I commented that watching Enchanted would be no different than watching a 100% animated version of Enchanted, though I wouldn't want live-action remakes of Disney's previous animated movies. At the time I wrote that, I never expected Disney to actually do so years later, starting with live-action versions of Cinderella and The Jungle Book. And at the time of this writing, there are signs that we will get a live-action version of The Lion King.
When I first heard of this latest trend of Disney, I thought it was pointless. But then I noticed something: the decade of 2010 seems to be a prime time for remaking old movies and TV shows. This is because a new generation of kids is among us, one that is more accustomed to new technology than old-timers. If you want these kids to enjoy older movies and TV shows, you could simply show those older productions to the kids and let them discover the magic. However, kids who love the visuals created by today's moviemaking technology might not be interested in older films made with older technology. For example, how do you introduce an old movie done in traditional 2D animation? Disney's new direction of live-action remakes may be their way of addressing this dilemma.
And you know what? Maybe this isn't bad at all. While I didn't check out the live-action Cinderella or Jungle Book right away, I did see the new live-action version of Beauty and the Beast because I loved the original 1991 animated film. The one thought that I had throughout was that this new movie definitely has cross-generational appeal. Today's audience accustomed to CGI will love this movie as much as many older movie lovers who grew up with 2D-animated films and are re-experiencing the same movie in a different visual style. I didn't complain about watching a familiar movie, because I was too busy reliving the experience of a great familiar story while enjoying the new look of the whole thing. Basically, if you loved the 1991 animated Beauty and the Beast, you'll likely enjoy the 2017 live-action/CGI Beauty and the Beast.
On that note, let me point out the similarities and differences. The story and music are pretty much the same between the two versions of Beauty and the Beast. The plot of the new consists of the plot of the old plus a few minor revisions and additions, and the music of the new consists of all songs from the old plus a few new ones. That's why the new live-action/CGI version is half an hour longer than the 90-minute animated original. But at least the most important things are the same in both: the spirit and the emotion.
Part of it is due to the fact that two people behind the great songs of certain Disney animated films, Alan Menken and Tim Rice, are back to recreate the same musical numbers for live action and to throw in a few new ones. Plus, you have a cast delivering great performances in both acting and singing. Emma Watson, famous for the role of Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series, comes alive as the leading lady Belle, along with Dan Stevens as the Beast, Kevin Kline as Belle's father Maurice, Luke Evans as the handsome but selfish Gaston, Josh Gad as Gaston's fat companion LeFou, Ewan McGregor as Lumiere the candelabra, Ian McKellen as Cogsworth the clock, and many others. When you combine the cast with the script, music, costume design, set design, and special effects, the result is just fabulous.
Because I am an old-timer who saw the 1991 animated film already, my review is naturally targeted to an older audience who also cherished the animated classic. So I won't provide a partial plot summary, especially as my review of the 1991 film did that already and reviews of the 2017 remake by younger reviewers will likely do the same. Instead, let me just briefly comment on my experience watching a remake of a familiar story. Even though I knew what would happen next in the story, I enjoyed following it, simply because I loved the story the first time around. It's like how we watch a movie more than once because we want to relive the great experience of it. Whether one will like the new Beauty and the Beast after seeing the old one is really just a matter of willingness to relive a great experience.
My overall rating for this movie is not that hard to determine. I gave the 1991 Beauty and the Beast a 10 out of 10, and the 2017 version is just as good, so it, too, gets a 10 out of 10. It provides the same experience and magic of the classic for the new generation. It may also signal the potential end of Disney's 2D era and the start of a new live-action/CGI era for the studio. OK, maybe that's being too harsh, and maybe I'm wrong on that. But whatever happens, this movie shows that Disney can take a fairy tale and effectively present it in the 21st century. Beauty and the Beast is a tale as old as time for sure.
For more information about Beauty and the Beast, visit the Internet Movie Database.
In addition, check out my review of the 1991 animated version of Beauty and the Beast.