Beauty and the Beast 2017 Review

It’s an interesting predicament I find myself in with this latest live action remake from Disney, Beauty and the Beast. Because I detested the marketing, some think I have a vendetta against the film and would never like it. On the other hand,  the animation fandom cries “traitor” if I like anything about it. Oh well! Looks like I will just have to be honest with my response as I always am. So here goes…

So far these Disney live action remakes have been a bit of a mixed bag for me. I loved Cinderella and Pete’s Dragon because they felt small and intimate and gave a new vision to the story without bastardizing the original as Maleficent did. Jungle Book I thought was solid and entertaining and the 2 Alice films I didn’t care for. Maleficent I hated with the passion of a thousand fiery suns. Where does this Beauty and the Beast lie? Well, I’d say like the remakes as a whole it is a bit of a mixed bag. The average moviegoer looking to be entertained will be but that doesn’t take from some problems I had with the film.

Let’s talk about strengths first. My favorite thing about the film was the strong production design and the large musical set pieces. I can’t think of a musical in a long time that had such satisfyingly staged musical sequences. Be Our Guest, Belle, and Gaston were the particular highlights. The costumes, scope, dancing and ensemble singing were first rate. It was easy to get swept away in the moments and that’s what you want in a musical.

I also really liked what they did with Gaston. Luke Evans was hilarious in the role and while he may not be the size of a barge it didn’t matter. He worked for the part. They made him a bit more sympathetic without completely changing his character like they did with Maleficent. He’s still the cocky guy we know and love but he seemed to actually be in love with Belle, which I appreciated. Also Lefou was a well done character. I liked his story arc through the film and Josh Gad did a good job in the role. He isn’t just a literal punching bag that he is in the animated film.  By the way, the whole “gay moment” is nothing that should offend anyone in any way. His character arc is satisfying not because of his sexuality but because of how he deals with questions of loyalty and friendship.

They also work in a lot of humor into the script, which I enjoyed. I found myself laughing quite a bit especially with Lumiere and Cogsworth but a lot of the characters were funny.

But that’s about where my positives end and some problems start. My biggest problem with the film is in the character design. All of the household objects were difficult to connect with emotionally. Lumiere and Cogsworth were designed in a way that made it difficult to see their faces and expressions. Mrs Potts was literally flat so you had no sense of movement or personality to her.  It is all left to the voice cast to sell the emotion and they just couldn’t do it. The Beast looked like Krampus and his face was flat and dull. And Harry Potter fans will hate me for saying this but I also found Emma Watson to be flat and wooden in her performance as Belle. There wasn’t much chemistry between the two of them because they were uninteresting and bland, which is a big problem selling this story.

I also had some problems with the new additions to the story. For the most part they didn’t add anything that wasn’t super obvious or predictable. It just made scenes feel stretched out and kind of boring. They should have picked one or two backstories to focus on, but instead they did a lot and none of them feel very developed or satisfyingly fleshed out. For example, we learn something about Mrs Potts’ marriage but it feels very tagged on and not emotional like it should.

The best of the additions is the new peril the household objects face with the curse but I didn’t really like that they are somehow blamed for the Beast’s behavior and the curse. This seemed like a major stretch. I can see blaming parents for the behaviors of a child but servants in a castle? That is tough to believe. It’s certainly a very harsh enchantress.  That’s for sure.

Other new story involving Belle’s mother and the Beast’s backstory just did nothing for me. Also the new songs were very forgettable and flat. They aren’t bad songs but the only reason I remember one of them is because Josh Groban sang it in the credits and I’m a huge fan of his.

Speaking of music, the other major problem I had with the movie was in the singing. Emma Watson’s singing was frankly awful. She not only sounds autotuned but her vocals don’t mesh with the rest of the strong ensemble vocals. It’s one thing for a terrible vocalist to be in Mama Mia or Phantom of the Opera but most of the singing sucked in those movies. Here the ensemble is great and classic Broadway sound, so to have an electronic sound as the lead didn’t work at all. It was such a bummer because if she had been dubbed I think I would have LOVED those songs. If I was Emma Watson I would be very mad with Disney because it is their job to make their star sound good and they didn’t.

Most people will go see Beauty and the Beast and have a great time, and so I have to give Disney credit on that level. There is entertainment to be had here and I think as a whole it is a harmless movie. Does it live up to the 1991 original film? Of course not but it’s certainly not awful. I thought the musical set pieces and Gaston/Lefou were fun enough to recommend the film despite some of my problems and issues. In a way it seems like a bit of a missed opportunity because elements  were there to make it truly great but oh well. It’s not an atrocity like Maleficent so I’m grateful for that.

Overall Grade- C+

Here is my youtube review. I would really appreciate it if you gave it a watch and a thumbs up if you have a minute.  Thanks!

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Lion King Remake

lion-king34As a Disney blogger I feel somewhat compelled to say something about today’s announcement of a Lion King remake. I wish I could say I was surprised but come on guys we all knew this was coming.

So, what do I think about live action Lion King? Well, my feelings on fairytale retellings are mixed at best. Even in books they just aren’t my thing. When it comes to the movies I have loved 2 of them- Pete’s Dragon (which is a remake in name only) and Cinderella (which there are so many versions it’s not really an animated remake). I liked Jungle Book and 101 Dalmatians but didn’t love them like some.

Three of them are awful- Maleficent, Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass. They are bad for different reasons but mostly they just aren’t very well made movies, with badly written scripts and boring characters. When this is done to a remake of a classic film it feels insulting because you know that Disney could have done better. They have the better version staring them in the face and they settled for junk (yes, I realize that is strong words but I think those 3 movies are that bad).

As far as my recent outcry over Beauty and the Beast. I have hated everything I’ve seen out of that movie. People ask my opinion and that’s how I feel. Could the movie be great? Sure but things like the new Lumiere and Cogsworth? Peeuw! And then when I heard the director claim the reason to do the remake was they finally had the technology to fully realize the original vision that angered me. That vision was fully realized. If Disney is going to insist upon making these remakes could they please stop downgrading the original in an effort to puff up the new film? Please!

So, the Lion King…the first obvious difference between it and these other films is no humans. It is basically an animated film but because it is photo-realistic it is perceived as live action. And they could use motion capture to get eye movements and other facial expressions on the lions.

I have no interest in this project at all. Does that mean it couldn’t be good? Of course not but I’m not excited or anticipating it in any way. I’m open to them being good or bad but don’t expect me to be eagerly anticipating any of these remakes.

I’m not in general opposed to remakes. I just don’t like bad movies and for a long time these remakes were terrifically bad movies.

There are a few spots where the Lion King could be improved on such as the intro to Can You Feel the Love Tonight, which I’m sure will happen as this will be a dark and grittier version like in Jungle Book. I’m not sure I need a dark and gritty version but whatever…

I don’t know what else to say. There’s a difference between totally writing something off and being expected to be excited about it. For some reason I was expected to be excited about a teaser trailer for Beauty and the Beast that was shots of the set and some music but everyone expects me to be full of wrath at this announcement.

I don’t hate the remakes as some form of protest. I genuinely look at the films/promotional images and either like them or don’t like them. It’s as simple as that. I actually liked the Jungle Book trailers so it’s not just some knee jerk, hate everything reaction from me. So far everything out of Beauty and the Beast I haven’t liked and have frankly been surprised that other people were so accepting of them. I mean Lumiere and Cogsworth you can’t see their faces! And the new Belle dress…Ee gads. It’s like they are actively trying to make her ugly. Don’t even get me started on Mrs Potts…

If I had it my way these remakes would take the Pete’s Dragon approach. Take indie directors with bold artistic approaches, small budgets and lots of heart. However, these big loud bloated films seem to be the typical Disney choice. Shrug. Too bad.

I guess my only real question will be if they use the music or not? Most of the films have not used the music (Jungle Book I didn’t really care for the music in it. We will see on Beauty and the Beast…). Also, will they bring the original voice cast back? Who knows?

When it comes down to it I wish they weren’t making any of them but am open to them being good movies. I guess that’s all I have to say.

More ramblings on my youtube channel