Monday, March 20, 2017

Movie Review: Beauty and the Beast 2017

Hollywood's obsession with remakes and reboots can get damn right annoying (even if they do hit the mark every once in a while) but the live action version of Beauty and The Beast is not a remake or reboot in the traditional sense – it is more an homage to the 1991 classic Disney animated film. There was little attempt to play with the story line and some camera shots are reproduced exactly like the original.

From going around the web forums, I noticed that this copycat style irked some people, but I believe Disney was extremely clear with their intentions about what this film would and wouldn't be way before we got the first teaser trailer – it was a live action version of a animated film we all cherished – their attention to detail in the replication was astounding and I was very happy with the result.

There are some extra layers to this movie that the original animated film didn't have, though, mainly in how it rounds out some of the characters. Belle is still charming but there is the shadow of her mother's death which surrounds her and adds a slight sadness to her smile. Her father also come off as more than just a weird village dweller, especially when the film explores how he came to be a single father.

Gaston was also more three dimensional and interesting than in the animated movie – his adoration from the village as well as his manic episodes are better explained and seem to both spring from his time in the war.

The Beast was the character that I felt could have had a few more layers – the animated version allowed him to have many more facial expression (especially in the eyes) and bits of dialogue to express his growing affection for Belle and his own uncertainty about his future if the spell were to remain on his castle forever.

Beast's enchanted helpers were also more endearing in the Disney cartoon due to the animator's ability to add extra facial quirks – the CGI versions are a bit harsher and gives the castle a more somber mood. I felt this was a directorial choice though – the animated movie made the castle servants all too cheery for such a dire situation – these versions were still hopeful but understood what the spell could mean for them in the end. They had the emotional edge that the Beast lacked in this version.

These are minor gripes though and it in no way affected my level of enjoyment for the finished product. Beauty and the Beast is beautifully filmed, sung, acted, and produced. The classic numbers sounded crisp as ever and the new songs (though not as grand) didn't take anything away from the stand-bys. The movie was made with its heart worn on its sleeve.

Much like last year's surprise hit musical, La La Land, Beauty and the Beast didn't try to upgrade anything or modernize their dance numbers – they kept to a traditional musical script and banked on the audience's love for the original production and a the desire that any movie goer has to enter a movie theater to be marveled. I enjoy this non-cynical approach because I am too much of a cynic – and I also wonder now if the traditional musical won't slowly make a come back as audiences are proving that they are more than willing to spend money to watch these spectacles.

Although the movie has a few bits that lag towards the middle – as both Beast and Belle are afforded visual expositions about their past instead of dialogue which builds character – these scenes are short and set piece after set piece remind us of how Disney cares about their audience and their creative property. If you loved the original animated film you will be dazzled – if you think a near shot for shot reproduction is unnecessary you may still come away smiling. I highly recommend this film for an older generation and a newer generation alike.

Post by P. Ray     


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