2017 Movie Reviews: Beauty And The Beast

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I saw this movie on March 17th. I don’t know why it’s taken so long for me to write about it. I guess I needed time to gather my thoughts. I will say though, that two days after I saw the film, I saw the Chicago production of Hamilton. And let’s just say that the musical geek part of my brain pushed Beauty And The Beast to the side.

But now, I’ve had some time to think. And, well, this movie is pretty darn good.

Very few people seem to actively hate this movie. People either say they love it or they say they enjoyed it while also deeming it unnecessary. My opinion lies somewhere between these two notions.

On the one hand, seems pointless to remake one of the most beloved animated films in the history of cinema. The main motivation for this film even existing is to make money. But while the producers might be thinking with their wallets, nobody else involved with this film is.

It’s very clear that the entire cast and crew of this film understand the gravity of what they’re doing. Just consider the production designer and costume designer, who have to create an animated world with style that still seems grounded in some form of reality.

Perhaps the biggest flaw with this film is that it seems to be suffering from an identity crisis. Sometimes it tries its hardest to be the original film, shot for shot and line for line. But other times it seems like its trying to break free and be its own thing. But surprisingly, most of the significant changes to the original script are welcome changes, without any embarrassingly bad decisions.

Interestingly, there is one aspect of this film that is arguably an improvement on the original, and that is the actual romance between Belle and the beast. The second act of the story is given a lot more weight, and we can see an actual relationship blossoming between these two. It certainly helps that Emma Watson and Dan Stevens both give very good performances, even if their singing is noticeably auto-tuned.

As for the rest of the cast, they all do a fine job, even though none of them really stand on their own as much as the two leads. All of the characters feel more human, which gives certain scenes more weight than they had in the original. The new songs that have been added are brilliant. They have to stand on their own next to the classics but they blend in surprisingly well.

This film could have so easily been a cash grab, but the filmmakers really tried to make this movie a strong piece of cinema in its own right. I guess in the long run it doesn’t  matter, because in 20 years, parents will be showing their kids the original film, with the remake being left as a curious time capsule of the time Hollywood was remaking everything they could get their hands on.

But that doesn’t mean that the film isn’t worth seeing. Is it unnecessary? Perhaps. But it has just the right does of nostalgia to take you back to your childhood. And if you think that this film will just be a rehash of things you’ve already seen, don’t worry. Keep an open mind and you’ll find… there may be something there that wasn’t there before.

***1/2 out of ****

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