It’s kinda funny that a film that features the line “never go back to your childhood” is a remake of a classic Disney animated film. It’s a cynical marketing ploy to remake a film that sticks so close to it’s source material, but when the source material is this good, it’s hard to find anything worth changing, and there’s one I really wanted and they didn’t give it to me.
Almost everything I didn’t like about this film stems from one source: Cinema Sins (no, I’m not linking to them). Any time the film decides to flesh out a backstory, or correct a “sin”, it slows to a crawl, destroying the pace and will probably create more “sins” along the way. It takes something lean and mythic and bloats it in an attempt for it to all make more sense when it never really needed it. I never really needed to know where Belle’s mother went or Beast’s relationship to his father in order to enjoy the original, and their addition doesn’t satisfy any curiosity. When you consider that it’s Stockholm Syndrome; The Musical, trying to hammer it into a less tricky narrative seems trivial and silly.
The music is also a bit of a hack job, with some songs gone and classics that feel like they’ve been remixed, so when I felt the need to sing along, I found myself stumbling over new lines, rearrangements of lyrics or waiting for dance number after dance number to finish.
I have an enormous amount of respect for Emma Watson as a person, but she’s just not a singer and it shows. Luckily she doesn’t duet with Luke Evans’ Gaston or Dan Steven’s Beast, because the contrast would have been striking. Whilst he doesn’t quite hit the highs of buffoonery or the lows of madness, Evan’s Gaston is the best part of this film; flamboyant, dimwitted but not stupid and one hell of a singing voice, he’s not a perfect translation of the character but he’s clearly having a hell of a lot of fun being here (as does Josh Gad, who’s a joy as always). Steven’s Beast is far, far softer than his animated counterpart and the small detail of the Beast being on all fours whenever he’s mean or selfish, but on two legs as he becomes more human is lost, which paints him far more as a sympathetic character but I never really felt the depths to his rage and self loathing like in the original. However, that softness allows him to have more depth and feels more rounded as a character. The scenes where he’s getting to know Belle are one of the few welcome additions. Thankfully he does get a new song to sing but it’s not the one I wanted. Years ago I heard “If I can’t Love Her” and it touched me in a way few songs ever had.
And I really wanted this put back in because it’s haunting.
This review may sound unduly negative and I still consider the original to be better but it’s not a disaster. There’s some genuinely great moments towards the end that still pack an emotional punch, I just wish it didn’t meander so damned much.
So, bring on a Robin Williams-less Aladdin and a human-less Lion King (rendering the idea of a live action version moot). I really wanted a shadowy figure to turn up at the end of the film to tell Belle about the “Magic Kingdom” Initiative.
- Gaston’s stolen Ben 10's catchphrase, which made me giggle.
- When the film opens on the question “and who could love a beast?” I couldn’t help but respond “Hermione. After all, she married Ron Weasley.”
- After Be Our Guest finished, we heard someone snoring. I don’t know who you are, sir, but I don’t think I’ve ever been so tired that I slept through an incredibly loud musical number. I almost respect you.