The live action versions of Disney classics continue to fall short of their predecessors, though Beauty and the Beast may be my favorite yet. Partly by default, partly by merit.
Beauty and the Beast is a tale as old as time (how many reviews do you want to bet use this line?). Dad meets boy. Boy kidnaps dad. Girl switches places with dad. Boy is beast. Girl and boy beast fall in love. Bring on the Stockholm Syndrome and bestiality jokes, I’m sure the movie has heard them all.
I will give the movie makers credit for largely understanding that, when it comes to a classic like Beauty and the Beast, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. For the most part. All of your favorite characters and songs are in this one and they get their time to shine throughout the story you know and love. And shine brightly they do. “Be Our Guest,” glaringly so. As the wine glasses and silverware rose into the sky like the mating dance between a peacock and a team of synchronized swimmers, it was clear to me that some things could’ve been buffed down a little. I know the house staff wants to give it their all for this lovely lady, but tone it down guys. This is live action. Let’s know our place and adjust accordingly.
I would’ve gladly accepted changes like this to lessen the cartoonish nature of some scenes; what I have trouble accepting are the additions that were made to the story. The obvious examples are the new musical numbers, but my biggest complaints come in moments when fan service is considered over story development. Take the question of Belle’s mom. This movie dives deeper into why the mother is missing from Belle’s life, and though it’s great to have answers I really don’t see the point of it. Yes, it’s a connecting factor between the Beast and Belle because they have similar tragic pasts in this regard, but that doesn’t actually do much for their love story in bringing them together. If anything it just further cements Belle’s feelings for her father, which were never in question. Those two weirdos were made for each other.
Another change is briefly telling a one sentence tale of an abusive father for the Beast, providing a reason for sympathy towards this brute of a man. I just wish it had been provided by the Beast himself. Then maybe it could’ve acted as a real moment of understanding between the two to set them on the path of caring for each other. Instead it’s just “by the way, his dad sucked” from the drawn on lips of a teapot, now bring on the montage of Belle falling in love! Ugh… I am starting to get why some people poke fun at this love story…
If you don’t mind the additions of the unnecessary then you’ll love this movie. Most people seemed to have nothing but positive things to say coming out of the theater. But I found myself in a different camp. I was questioning the backstories, the family horse’s journey back and forth, the fact that a candlestick was in a relationship with a bird… I still enjoyed it, mostly, but it’s not the original. And you just can’t beat the original.