Perception is reality. Everyone carries their own perception of good and bad movies which evolves over time. Subject, genre, mood, and many more factors can weigh in on your perception of a films credibility. In watching remakes, I use some perception gymnastics to attempt approaching a film at an untainted angle. The 1991 Beauty and the Beast animated film is an absolute powerhouse which ranks among the best animated films ever created. It became the first animated film in cinema history to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. It is difficult to put the 2017 live action remake into a hybrid category which both allows it to be judged by its own merit and compares it to the benchmark which created the precedent in the first place. Given the success of the 1991 film, Disney’s excellent promotion and production standards, and casting beloved superstar Emma Watson as the lead, Beauty and the Beast was a guaranteed financial hit. But, how does the film keep pace with the audience expectations?
I approached Beauty and the Beast with an expectation to receive a solid mix of new intrigue and nostalgia. The story remains largely the same, with the exception of a few add on side notes which are not entirely complimentary to anything. It seems as though there are baseless ingredients that did little more than add time and information rather than building the characters, connections, or viewer’s investment. The Disney team packed an incredible amount of passion and meaning into 1 hour and 24 minutes in 1991. The live action remake seems to lose track of the passions, at times getting sidetracked with visual effects or perhaps stretching for more star filled screen time. Minimalism is essential, and I would have liked to see some fat cut and potentially replaced with significant character and story development.
Reimagining a classic animated film into a modern live action musical is a steep task by anyone’s standard. The real world fantastical mansion that comes alive before your eyes is a wonder to behold. I was thoroughly impress by the filmmaker’s ability to transform the enchanted castle to life. Human characters embodied both the appearance and the sentiments of the animated film for the most part. Certain characters, like Gaston and LeFou, translated extremely well. Others, unfortunately, got slightly lost or skewed in translation.
Music is monumentally important (particularly given the movie is a musical). The music for the remake was mostly, and rightfully, taken from the animated predecessor. This transference is exactly what was needed due to the impact of the songs on the original. In other words, I’m extremely satisfied they didn’t try reinventing the wheel. There are additional songs which are very well made and fit in seamlessly. I did feel a lack of vocal performance prowess which I have come to expect to move me and entrench me in the song’s purpose. Being live action, I expected this aspect to thrive and the musical genre to gain a great asset. It was disappointing to see this de-emphasis.
The new Beauty and the Beast takes advantage of the pristine story line which all have come to know. It is extremely well put together and entertaining through and through, star studded, and visually pleasant. Despite the various shortcomings which disappointed me, I was not regretful for giving my time and attention to the remake. It was a refreshing homage to the tried and true classic, but left a lot to be desired as a standalone film. Extravagant visuals carried lack luster storytelling to produce this fun filled work that will leave you searching through your Disney animated collection for the real thing.
Now, with all that said, this could be one of the most powerful movies ever released. I don’t aim to convince anyone that the live action remake of Beauty and the Beast is full of life changing content. However, for a global titan such as Disney to include a gay character for a large role in one of the most anticipated releases is a strong signal. Prior to release there was outrage due to the fact that LeFou was homosexual, causing some regions to refuse to play the movie. As a company, Disney had to weigh the loss in ticket sales against the benefits of portraying LeFou the way they did. In doing so, they chose to travel a path of equality and acceptance rather than profit maximization. It is a small (some may say insignificant) move, but social perception changes slowly. When looking at the world as a whole, or even the mega-corporation of the Walt Disney Company, simply including members of the LGBTQ community is behaving as a role model. This company and its’ movie are consumed by billions of people, and they have stood unwavering against all opponents of the gay portrayal. I am not saying that this aspect improved the cinematic quality of the movie. I am saying a gay LeFou is a sign that the Walt Disney Company is willing to stand up for human rights and do the right thing. Beauty and the Beast sets a precedent and plants the seed of equality into the hearts and minds of families around the world. Guts and progressivity is what makes the Disney brand one of the most powerful in the world and one which I am proud to support time and time again.