Beauty and the Beast (2017) Review
I was probably one of the last 7 Disney fans on earth to see the new live-action Beauty and the Beast film, and now that it’s out of theaters and the Beauty and the Beast Blu-ray has been out for a few weeks, it seems the “perfect” time to review it. Hey, better late than never, right? No? Well…whatever.
Actually, I wanted to drop in with this review because I think Beauty and the Beast is a fascinating film in some regards, and the polarized reactions among fans is something worth discussing. In so doing, I’ll also discuss where I think the new version of the film succeeds and fails.
With Beauty and the Beast (2017), I’ve seen little middle ground in viewer reactions. This is increasingly normal with all things in fandom, but I think the polarized reactions among Disney fans (and Millennials, generally) both stem from the same place: nostalgia.
Nostalgia provokes different things in different people. For some, it makes them emotionally vulnerable. Others feel a protective sense of ownership over the thing they cherish. This is one of the reasons sequels of classic films engender strong responses.
This is certainly true of Beauty and the Beast. The result is that many who grew up with the original are eager to find a new way to revisit not only characters and songs they love, but their youth. On the other hand, there are those who are so protective of those memories and characters that any new story featuring them cannot possibly live up to the original. It’s a foregone conclusion before the movie is even released.
I’m pretty sentimental towards 1991’s Beauty and the Beast, which was released during the formative years of my youth, and for me stands behind only The Lion King as movies ‘young Tom’ loved.
While watching the 2017 Beauty and the Beast, there were a number of times–almost exclusively during songs–that I felt a rush of emotion. After each number ended, this faded away. In retrospect, that emotional resonance felt unearned. This movie had done little to provoke such a response…aside from reminding me of how its predecessor makes me feel. The emotion I felt during the movie was not due to what I was watching, but my memories of the animated classic.
If you can somehow strip away your nostalgia and emotional baggage (a difficult if not impossible task), I think what you’re left with is a fairly meh film. While the Beauty and the Beast remake does some things right, at the end it felt a bit too slickly-produced and cold for me. The overriding feeling I had when finishing the movie was not satisfaction for having seen a good or great film, but yearning for the original. (Which begs the question: why bother with this one?)
A couple of things the live action film does right are empathy and, to a lesser degree, exposition. It benefits from being able to go to darker places and having a longer running time, since it doesn’t have to follow the unwritten rules for Disney animated films. That gives this version of Beauty and the Beast the chance to provide the viewer a bit more backstory that further humanizes the characters.
More backstory is not always a good thing, though. In a few cases, scenes felt like they existed solely for the sake of the story diverging from the animated classic. (“See? It’s different!”) As with the parks, story for its own sake does nothing. In other cases, story changes feel unnecessary and have likely been made to sidestep potential claims of Stockholm Syndrome.
Some of the exposition makes it easier for the viewer to empathize with the characters, but there’s also the fact that these are adept human actors. A lot of emotion can be conveyed in good animation, but there’s something to be said for the pain visible in Kevin Kline’s face or the conflict in Josh Gad’s as he grapples with whether to support his friend as Gaston transforms into a real villain. (On the other hand, animated Belle offers more emotional depth than Emma Watson Belle.)
What live action giveth, it also taketh. The live action Beauty and the Beast is willing to go to some slightly darker places the animated classic could not, but it also dovetails with the animated version to go some places a live action film should not. In the process, it feels campy.
This is a problem inherent in remaking the animated classics. Disney needs to cover new ground to justify the film’s existence, but also needs to play the hits, so to speak, because that’s what audiences expect and want. The result of that in Beauty and the Beast is some abrupt shifts in tone, and a movie that feels all over the place.
Is this movie supposed to stand on its own as a more ‘adult’ Beauty and the Beast…or is it a remix of the animated classic that is simply no longer drawn by hand? (Begging another question: if you want a more ‘adult’ live action Beauty and the Beast, why bother with this when the 1946 version does a better job at offering exactly that?)
Then there’s the CGI. There’s way too much of it, and it feels hollow. The nature of this story requires at least some CGI, but not in literally every background or environment. I get that Beast’s castle is supposed to feel cold, but I got the same vibe from Belle’s provincial village. (Why not actually film in France?) This was especially disappointing, as both of last year’s remakes, The Jungle Book and Pete’s Dragon, do an exceptional job with emotive CGI.
Ultimately, I don’t regret having watched Beauty and the Beast nor do I think it’s an awful film. It’s just fine. There were a few nice moments, and as mentioned above a few times the movie gave me goosebumps. For the most part, that had nothing to do with what I was watching…it was all about 1991 Beauty and the Beast. I have no intentions of watching the new version again because the animated version is far superior. (Frankly, it’s a masterpiece.) Where the live action Beauty and the Beast succeeds, it does so as a result of it riding on the coattails of that version, and most new aspects it brings to the table, I’m fine doing without. Suffice to say, there’s a reason the 1991 version was the first animated film ever nominated for Best Picture…and why this version will be forgotten in a decade.
The enchanting tale of Beauty and the Beast is a timeless classic that has been brought to life on the big screen once again. This latest rendition of the movie possesses a certain magic that is simply irresistible, and part of this magic can be attributed to the extraordinary performance of Emma Watsons. Known for her role as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series, Watsons impresses in her portrayal of Belle- a brave, intelligent and strong-willed heroine who refuses to conform to society’s demands. With her flawless acting and stunning beauty, Watsons definitely secures her place as one of Hollywood’s most talented actresses.
I just watched the movie and I’m very happy I did. Emma Watson played her role extremely well. She done the original a great compliment. Dan Stevens play the beast with equal talent. The entire cast did an extremely good job. My hat is off to you all. Thank you for an excellent movie.
I too just saw this recently for the first time, and afterwards felt the same as you. But now after repeated viewings (my 3 year old loves it), I find myself liking it more and more each time I watch it. Maybe having to watch it (almost) daily is making it easier to overcome my bias, since the original is tied with Lion King for my favorite Disney movie. Or maybe I’m just telling myself that to be able to get through watching it so often.
I was disappointed in the live action film, but I didn’t have high expectations of it anyway. (Nor did I have low…) I was wondering how they were going to make me relate to Belle’s feelings for beast as a real live half human/half beast. Didn’t work for me. I didn’t think Emma Watson made a good Belle at all. She was flat in both personality and voice. Agreeing with others’ comments it was very fast… It really didn’t give you time to appreciate each scene. And as for the big ‘HOOP-lah’ preceding the release, I walked out of the theater scratching my head. Seriously? All that fuss for that? While I’m not one to support the ‘spin’ they took, I’ve seen stronger innuendo in one episode of Three’s Company. Cinderella was THE BEST. Absolutely not comparable. My husband and I went to the movies to ‘preview’ it for the kids, but the only reason I took them to see it was so they’d know the DVD wasn’t worth getting. They agreed.
I agree, it just was okay. Emma Watson really let it down for me, I just found she wasn’t emotive enough and seemed a little wooden. Not to mention the amount of auto tune used in her singing parts was atrocious. Her voice is okay but she really should have done some serious singing training as she just hasn’t got the voice of a Disney princess.
I liked it for nostalgia reasons and I loved Josh Gad but they could have done so much more. A better Belle would have made such a difference.
I think you’ve summed up very well what I was feeling. I got chills and teared up at some of my favorite musical numbers…and I do give some credit to that being “brought to life,” which I think is an offshoot of nostalgia, and not simply nostalgia. But yes, I have no desire to see this again, whereas when my husband and I were channel surfing and saw the animated classic on TV the other day, we sat and continued to be in awe of the original “Be Our Guest.”
I just now watched this movie a few days ago. I totally agree with you Tom, except I’ll go one step further and say I just didn’t like it. I felt the movie was very poorly directed. The animated version moved slower and you had the time to take it all in visually. You could feel what Belle was feeling. This movie felt very rushed. You didn’t have time to look at each scene because the next one was coming too quickly. I felt like the director said, listen we have a 3 hour script and we only have 2 hours to get through it people. Belle had that big beautiful voice, and Emma Watson didn’t. Her voice wasn’t bad, but when she needed to go that extra step she couldn’t or didn’t. I didn’t think she did a bad job, but not a wonderful one either. I was so excited about this movie and everything about it was a huge let down starting from a few weeks before the release with the “big interview.” Don’t care to ever see it again.
I felt the same emotional pulls during the songs. Began to well up even and had to “slap” myself to keep from feeling like a dork in front of my husband who had never seen the first version. Then when I glanced over to see if he had already caught me and he was having the same reaction with absolutely no ties to the first movie, I felt free to enjoy fully. While I felt the animated version did some things better I was not let down with this movie and did thought some of it was nostalgia until I saw his reaction. It still has the same affect on newbies which means Disney still pulled off the same magic as the original no matter what us old skoolers think. No nostalgia needed whether it’s wanted to be believed or not.
YES! Thank you! Haven’t watched it yet — haven’t wanted to — and thanks to your awesome review, I won’t bother. But I WILL introduce my partner to the Jean Cocteau version, which I saw about 10 years ago and loved! Good call!
Totally agree! My family was shocked when i said i didn’t feel dazzled by the film. I absolutely loved the live-action Cinderella, though!
Thank you so much, I feel like my husband and I are literally the only two people that didn’t like this movie! I agree 100% with your thoughts 🙂
What I enjoyed with the original is that I found myself watching it over and over again picking up on all the nuances that the Disney Animators added in (IE – the beginning of the Gaston song when LaFou whips the belt off the mans pants – – check out the expression on the ladies face next to him…priceless!). It’s one of the main reasons I also like visiting Disney World so many times (going back again this September). It’s the little things that can be picked up when you look for them. The live action remake is too much ‘in your face’ and it makes the movie suffer as a result. There is nothing to ‘look for’ that sparks any kind of interest beyond just hearing the songs and seeing the story presented in a different way. Overall…I agree with Tom…meh.
I agree with your review. I watched the live version and found myself wanting to watch the animated one. I think the biggest reason was the lack of development of the characters. It was hard to make out features, I don’t think their personalities ever came through. I don’t feel that belle was especially kind like she was in the animated movie nor do I feel that beast’s heart really melted. I was actually disappointed after all the build up.
Hi Tom, now it’s not often I disagree with you as I just love your blogs and eagerly anticipate your emails, however… I think you should watch the new B&tB on a large screen, blu ray is ok but not as good, I also think you need to see it a couple of times to fully appreciate the details. I adore the animated version and having been on my first wdw hol last year I did every show or meet n greet possible – the family “acted” in Belles Enchanted Tales!! I absolutely love the new version, as do my 12 and 9 year old daughters. Disney films are like art, very subjective and as a Scot I may be a bit biased about Ewan Mcgregor’s Lumiere! (?Emma Watson and Emma Thompson are also my current fav actresses, so I’m happy!) I thought it was far better than what I considered a “meh” Cinderella remake. Just wondering what on earth they’ll do with Mary Poppins??!! Comments after that should be interesting … x
I absolutely adored the new live-action. Much more than I thought possible. There were some things that did grate on my nerves (why, oh why, with the auto-tune?!), but I thought it was filmed beautifully, I enjoyed the new songs and scenes that expanded the store, and I have already watched it multiple times. I was 10 with the animated movie was released and have watched it MANY times. I was skeptical that I would enjoy the remake (I was let down with the live-action Cinderella…..), but I found it refreshingly beautiful.
You are right, though, it is definitely polarizing! I don’t know of too many people who are right in the middle and meh about it 🙂
*story, not store, ha ha 🙂
I have zero attachment to the animated Beauty and the Beast. I was 16 when it hit theaters. It was visually lovely, but emotionally? Nothing. To my surprise, I really enjoyed the live action version. On every level, I found it more engaging.
I for one LOVED the 2017 version of Beauty and the Beast! If you were looking for depth in plot and character development, then you didn’t go to see the same film. This film was basedon the animated motion picture, and it held true to that. It did incorporate a few additions from the live stage version, and they blended in well. I think any criticisms that state the film wasn’t well developed are completely missing the point of the film in the first place. I have watched it three times in the theaters, and now have the Blue-ray. I was very impressed, and continue to be!