Beauty and the Beast (2017)

“Beauty and the Beast,” the animated Disney movie, is (to-date) the only animated film to be nominated for best picture. That was in 1991. 26 years have passed and in the era of remakes and re-interpretations, there is no doubt that a remake, a live-action one no less, would be very large shoes even for Disney themselves to fill. With CGI effects at a near “nothing is impossible” capability, how far or how extreme would Disney be willing to go to make us all experience that magic again? Would Disney even be able to? Even though I tend to avoid extended trailers and reviews, I had seen a nearly shot-for-shot original to remake split-screen and they were virtually identical. So how close was the remake to the original? If I ever write about remakes, I try not to compare them, but I feel like it’s a necessity with this one.

I mean… how do you improve on a tale as old as time?

The “Beauty and the Beast” of 2017 is about 70% identical to the 1991 animated masterpiece. (And it is a masterpiece.) I’ll get to the glaring differences-no spoilers-soon, but I think it’s only fair I tell you about what stood out for me.

Visually, it was impressive. Not only the magical residents of the castle, but also the general cinematography. My only criticism is that there are three moments when a new room or location is revealed and the camera begins from the ceiling and pans 360 degrees downward, which every time was rushed and out of focus. It took away from the sense of wonderment, drama, or grandeur of the meaning of the location of the scene, momentarily as it was. The special effects and makeup on Beast were pretty spectacular and nearly identical to how it was originally designed.

All the songs from the original were performed including a few others I hadn’t heard before. Honestly, I don’t know if they were original songs written for this movie, or from the Broadway musical. Either way, the whole movie felt like I was watching a Broadway musical as there were nearly 15 songs performed over the two hour and nine minute running time. I’m not ashamed to admit that when I heard the songs from the original, I lip synched through them all. The cast members overall did… okay. I wasn’t a fan of Emma Watson’s singing voice. Also, with all due respect, there’s only one Angela Lansbury. In the third act of the film where Belle and the Beast (still don’t know his real name) danced in the ballroom, hearing Emma Thompson was not the voice I will remember.

Josh Gad, who plays LeFou, steals every scene with his precise comedic timing, expressions, and overall way he reimagined the character. And he can sing! By far, my favorite character in the whole movie. Maybe you heard about the backlash regarding his character as being gay. There was such a backlash, in fact, that the movie was banned by a small independent theater in Alabama… ah, the Bible belt. Okay, the most minor of spoilers, but the only thing I noticed was when LeFou was ballroom dancing with another man for approximately 1 second of screen-time. Completely blown out of proportion.

Overall the “Beauty and the Beast” of 2017 is an impressive musical and visual achievement that will certainly delight children and be a completely nostalgic reminder of when we saw the original movie at our children’s ages.

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