With most of Disney’s current live-action adaptations of animated classics, we get actual retellings of their own animated originals. Not of the source material, but of Disney’s adaptations of the source material. Going back and watching, say, 1967’s Jungle Book, for example, we realize there is a lot missing and the film isn’t quite as perfect as we remember from our youth. Well, Disney has been fixing all this with their brand new live-action versions.
But 1991’s Beauty and the Beast doesn’t contain a whole lot of plot holes or mistakes. And I think Disney realized this too, as this 2017 version is nearly a shot-for-shot remake of the 1991 version. And why not? It worked once. Why not give the fans a version of the movie with actual people/characters played by actors they like?
The result does work. For the most part. Since the characters aren’t hand-drawn, we somehow become more invested in them. This helps a lot more with the supporting characters, such as Belle’s father–brilliantly played by Kevin Kline–or even Lumiere (voiced by Ewan McGregor), the candelabra, and Cogsworth (Ian McKellan), the mantel clock. But this also serves to make us realize how amazing the 1991 version was for evoking in us almost this same sense of emotion with hand-drawn characters.
Director Bill Condon and crew have created a world so strong and vivid that you can virtually see where everything is located on a map inside your head. The Beast’s castle is huge, and you feel its eerie atmosphere whenever you’re taken inside.
Honestly, this film’s weakest point is its music. The songs that we still love some 26 years later are slowed down, sung slightly different, and/or made worse. It’s an apparent effort to make them stand out apart from the originals, but that’s something no one really wanted. However, the two weakest songs from the original–the two sung by Gaston (Luke Evans)–are arguably improved upon, as they fit a live-action scenario much better.
Some things aren’t exactly the same. For one, we get more of a backstory on Belle (Emma Watson) and what happened to her mother. The filmmakers also give her more of a reason for her to fall in love with the Beast (Dan Stevens). And with 45 more minutes of runtime to work with, things don’t feel quite as rushed.
There’s also the addition of a few new songs. While most are just short buzzes, they all fit in perfectly with the classics from the original. Probably because Alan Menken, who composed the music for the 1991 film, also wrote these new numbers.
Ultimately, this is a movie for the fans of the original. Beauty and the Beast is not out to win any awards or to become anyone’s favorite. It just expands the world of a film we all know and love. And it does a very good job of it.