early the executives at Disney open their annual meetings by asking a simple (and misguided) question: “Which of our beloved animated classics can be remade with real-live people this year?” In 2014 it was Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty), followed by Cinderella in 2015, and The Jungle Book last year. (Not to mention 2010’s Alice in Wonderland.)
While, yes, those remakes have their merits, taken collectively they reveal a ridiculous amount of laziness (or greediness) among the Mouse House brain trust. Further proof? Mulan, The Little Mermaid, Snow White, and 101 Dalmatians re-dos are already in the works.
Disney’s latest, of course, is Beauty and the Beast, which tries (and only barely succeeds) to come within a ten-foot-pole’s-length of the original, which is perhaps the best animated feature Disney has ever done… and still their only one to score a Best Picture nod.
Hampered by the inevitable comparisons to the 1991 animated version, not to mention is way-too-long 129-minute run time, the live-action Beauty and the Beast may have its moments, but overall it ends up as a bit of a disappointment─a thin remake of a film that didn’t need remaking. Heck, I may even have been happier had they just given us an easy, cash-grab 3D re-release of the original instead.
A big issue, especially when Beast is compared to Disney’s other recent live-action efforts, is that it doesn’t add anything particularly noteworthy to the equation. Everything you’ll love about this version was already in the original, including Ashman and Menken’s brilliant songs, Cogsworth and Lumiere’s droll banter, the unlikely romance, and yes, cute little Chip. What it adds (aside from a full 45 minutes) is a couple of unmemorable songs and some unneeded backstory about the fate of Belle’s mother.
The remake falters most, however, simply because it’s not animated. The whimsy and goofiness (and artistry) inherent in animated movies is conspicuously missing. Seeing real household objects anthropomorphize makes them look more clunky than fun, particularly if you spend most of the movie remembering the hand-drawn brilliance they’re replacing.
Director Bill Condon (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Parts 1 and 2) did what he could to inject life into the proceedings, and certainly many parts of the film are brilliant to look at, but at the end of the day the script by Evan Spiliotopoulos (The Huntsman: Winter’s War) and Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) falters more than it flourishes.
Of course none of this means a hill of beans to the youngsters in the audience who will be thrilled to watch the magic unfold before them. Imagine their reaction, though, when you show them the original─how it’s really done.
Worth the 3D glasses?
While there’s no shortage of moments in the film that were produced solely to cater to the folks who choose to pony up the extra cash, most of them actually look like 3D even without the glasses (including, of course, the “Be Our Guest” scene. The kiddos will certainly ooh and aah at the 3D, but if you don’t want to pay the couple of bucks, don’t feel compelled.