A tale as old as 30 years is retold with almost exactly the same story, visuals and songs. It’s so close to the source material that one is left wondering why we needed a remake of the beloved animated feature.
Belle (Emma Watson) wants more. Gaston (Luke Evans) wants her. The Beast (Dan Stevens) wants to be loved. Le Fou (Josh Gad) doesn’t know what he wants. Lumiere (Ewan McGregor) and Cogsworth (Ian McKellen) want to be human again (sans the song from the stage play of the same name). And we all know how it ends.
So why watch the film at all? It isn’t that clear to me. But there were some things I enjoyed.
Watson and Evans are great in their roles, looking very much like the original characters and acting much the same. [SPOILER] Learning Maurice’s (Kevin Klein) reasons for leaving Paris and where Belle’s mother went was a nice addition. [END SPOILER] I liked that the new material was very close to the source material that I grew up with. Beauty and the Beast was and is one of the most cherished films of my youth and this film didn’t destroy that as happens all too often with other movies from source material from the 80s or 90s (I’m looking at you Transformers, G.I. Joe, Smurfs, A-Team, and so many more).
There were also things I didn’t like, like, [SPOILER] giving the mirror the power to transport was interesting, but left plot holes about why it couldn’t transport Belle and her Father later in the film. [END SPOILER] I dislike that every film that takes place in any other era of time or location has characters with English accents. After all, dear, this is France – so why couldn’t Belle and Gaston have French accents? I dislike that there is a huge castle that can’t be found (because: magic?) until Maurice comes upon a downed tree and then everyone can find it.
I also didn’t like the controversy surrounding Le Fou. It was quite a lot for such a small thing, I thought, all the way until the end, where [SPOILERS] one of the villagers is cross dressed by Garderobe (Audra McDonald) and likes it and then when Le Fou sees the male villager dressed as a woman their eyes light up and a clear zing happens on screen leading to them dancing with each other. [END SPOILERS] What the creators want to add into films is their prerogative, but it is also my prerogative as a parent to determine what my children can watch. I did take my teen daughter to this and asked about her opinion and she said she didn’t pay attention to that part much but did notice it. If that matters to you, as it does to me, it may change how you see the film. The worst part about this addition was that it was a controversy that didn’t need to be there.
Setting aside controversy, what I liked and what I didn’t I was left with my original question: why make this film at all? I get remaking Cinderella (1950) and the Jungle Book (1967) because they were so long ago at the time of their remakes (50+ years each) and society has changed so much over the course of two or three generations that the originals seem quaint and a little vapid. But I don’t get Beauty and the Beast (1991) or the upcoming The Little Mermaid (1989) or The Lion King (1994). Children today have grown up on these films and they came out when their parents were teens. Plus the stage adaptations are even more recent (and having seen the stage version of Beauty, I’d say maybe better.)
If there were no animated film I would have enjoyed this more. But having loved the original film (and animation) as well as the stage adaptation I just don’t need to see another version of the Tale as Old as Time. Seeing new versions every 10 years isn’t making this story more beloved, just making it more old.
2/5 stars. Language was mostly clean. No nudity or sexuality. Drinking was at a pub and no worse than the animated version. Cross dressing and “gay moment” are briefly seen.
Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.