“Beauty and the Beast” is one of Disney’s greatest animated films, and probably my favorite in the entire collection of classics. As the signature song title even says, “It’s a tale as old as time,” and Disney portrayed it through detailed, beautiful animation and a certain magic you just can’t find anywhere else.
In more recent years, Disney has decided to start cashing in on this nostalgia for its classic films, and with admittedly impressive results. Last year’s “The Jungle Book” (2016) was a surprisingly good take on old material. Disney aimed to capture that success again with “Beauty and the Beast” (2017); while the film is good, it fails to differentiate itself enough to justify the price of a theatre ticket.
In terms of updating the original, the film rarely diverges from the original source material, and instead makes minor changes to song lyrics or events. The focus is on refining what was already near-perfect with more modern visuals. In the latter sense, the remake succeeds.
The production design and visual effects in the movie are incredible — they create a beautiful, gothic castle brimming with rich details. This same level of care is put into creating the servants of the castle. The personified metallic objects spontaneously spring to life and their animated presence in the film makes them seem real.
The talented cast brings even more personality to these characters. Emma Watson does a fantastic rendition of Belle (“Beauty”), as does Dan Stevens in playing the “Beast”, and the actors behind the servants are equally entertaining.
The highlight of the film is Josh Gad as Lefou, Gaston’s goofy sidekick. The filmmakers opted to highlight Lefou in a new way by portraying him as homosexual in the remake — a detail that stirred controversy prior to the film’s release.
The emphasis on the latter aspect of Lefou’s character is minor, though, and Gad’s lines bring self-aware humor to the set. This comedy is sprinkled throughout the film, introducing some much needed elements of surprise.
One of Gad’s funniest lines is during the film’s rendition of the song “Gaston,” which also happens to be the movie’s best song. Most of the other numbers, both new and old, are fantastically done as well; many invoke modern filmmaking techniques to make scenes more extravagant.
Unfortunately, issues arise whenever “Beauty and the Beast” (2017) tries to add new details to the plot and subsequently kills the pacing. In this version, the audience is given more background to the Beast and Belle, but these scenes feel more like filler than necessary character development.
This simultaneously underscores my biggest issue with the film: it’s not different enough. Everything that’s great about this version was either already done in 1991, or serves as a weighty, unnecessary addition.
Instead of trying to find a new angle on the fairy tale, Disney opted to play it safe. This ensures the remake can’t be anything less than “good,” but it does beg the question of why it even exists. Why pay $10 for a nearly identical version of a film fans most likely already own?
Rating: Perfect for children who have yet to experience the classic, or for Disney fans who want to see their childhood in a slightly different way.
Sam Goodrich, Staff Writer