‘Beauty and the Beast’ Tops Disney’s Recent Remakes
For anyone who grew up in the 90s, the Disney Renaissance was undeniably the epitome of a millennial’s childhood. Good luck finding a twenty-something who didn’t wear out their VHS copies of The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King. Fast-forward nearly 26 years later into the vast wasteland of endless remakes and reboots. It’s no surprise that Disney is continuing its “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” mentality with a live-action remake of their beloved Beauty and the Beast.
Beauty and the Beast is synonymous with the concept of “tale as old as time.” So, we come to expect that what was perfectly crafted in 1991 will transcend two decades later now in 2017. This live-action version is practically the same movie we saw in 1991. An arrogant prince (Dan Stevens) is cursed as a hideous beast after turning away a disguised enchantress. The only way to break the spell is love another and they love him in return.
The perfect candidate is Belle (Emma Watson), a young woman ahead of her time, looking for more in life outside her boring provincial town. Under the exact circumstances as before, Belle ends up becoming a prisoner of the Beast. But after a few iconic songs, their awkward relationship begins to blossom.
This version of Beauty and the Beast is in a sense an extended live-action cut of the 1991 animated film. Scenes, dialogue and characterizations are plucked directly out of the previous film. Belle still prances around the village looking for a romantic story, while attempting to elude the vain captain, Gaston (Luke Evans). Just like the reprise of “Belle” is shot-for-shot as Watson’s running through a meadow in song.
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Director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) clearly has a love for the 1991 source material, capturing what made the original resonate with audiences there. Recreating Beauty and the Beast is a delicate exercise that faces declaration of cynicism to the studio just playing it safe. Condon transcends these wild claims, orchestrating a Beauty and the Beast a brand new generation can enjoy for the very first time. While much of Beauty and the Beast does feel old-hat, the experience is still a welcoming one. Think of it more of what Cinderella was aiming to accomplish two years ago, except on a much grander, accessible scale.
Emma Watson is a gem as Belle. Beauty and the Beast is her first blockbuster lead since 2011’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. She fits the role perfectly, channeling her inner Hermione Granger from time to time. Together with Dan Stevens (The Guest), their titular chemistry truly brings this remake to life. With nearly 45 minutes extra added on top of the animated film, we do spend much more time with the duo. There’s one magical deviation for 1991 film that adds more layers of character development and backstory. However, it still parades itself as one of those “extended cut” scenes.
Aesthetically, Beauty and the Beast is a much richer and engrossing atmosphere than Disney’s previous live-action remakes. It’s only March, but it’s already time to start talking Oscar nominations. Costume Design, Art Direction, Makeup, Visual Effects for starters. Beauty and the Beast is a gorgeous update that looks and sounds incredible. And bringing back Alan Menken, who score the 1991 film is only fitting.
The 1991 film still remains one of the greatest if not the greatest animated film in the history of cinema. So, to come even close to that benchmark is a triumph all into itself. Yes, Beauty and the Beast is overly faithful, but if you’ve had doubts whether or not Disney could pull off the impossible, put them to rest. With Kong: Skull Island out now and Power Rangers due out next weekend, remakes and reboots are sadly saturating the market.
Fortunately, Disney’s brought the magic full force in Beauty and the Beast, offering audiences a fairly respectable remake and the best musical in recent memory this side of La La Land.