As of March 24th, “Beauty and the Beast (2017)” has grossed over $300 million. (Courtesy of Disney)
The new “Beauty and the Beast” is the equivalent of the special editions to the original “Star Wars” movies: they are still the same movie as the original, but the few changes that have been made either do nothing to improve the movie or end up being a detriment.
A young girl named Belle (Emma Watson) trades herself to be an enchanted prince-turned monster’s (Dan Stevens) prisoner to save her father (Kevin Kline). During her time as the beast’s prisoner, the two begin to fall in love.
Outside of being live-action, the movie is almost scene for scene, visual for visual, the same movie as the original “Beauty and the Beast” from 1991. It is impossible to treat this as its own stand alone movie because it is not even a remake; it is a shameless copy of something most people loved with superfluous detail added in. This movie basically contains two sets of scenes: scenes they copied from the original movie, and scenes they changed which the original did much better.
Most of the songs used in the movie are the same ones used in the original movie from 1991, but a few new songs have been added in. These new songs break the cardinal rule for movie musicals, which is that a song should move the story along and not bring it to a standstill. These new songs mostly do not convey any new information and stop the show dead in its tracks.
Some changes are mild, but they end up robbing scenes of their importance. Here is an example: in the original movie, Beast giving Belle access to his library was meant as a moment to advance the relationship between the two. In the remake, Beast just disagrees with Belle on a book and brings her to the library to show her better books. When he sees her reaction to the library, he decides to give her access. Both of them have the same end result, but the latter one is robbed of its purpose because the gift is originally based on the Beast’s emotional reasoning, and in this it is just an afterthought after the two disagree on a book.
Then, there are changes which are just plain sloppy. The most obvious one is Gaston (Luke Evans). In the original version, Gaston is an arrogant narcissist. In the remake, he is a mild version of that but seems more like a well-meaning guy who has ultimately been given bad information on how to act. Then, since this new personality makes it hard to view him as a villain, he suddenly becomes insane halfway through the movie for no reason.
It should be noted that there are a couple of changes that actually work in favor of the movie. These changes being slight tweaks to dialogue to explain a few minor questions that the first movie raised, like why no one in the village knew about the castle and what happened with the Beast’s parents.
This new version of “Beauty and the Beast” fails to provide anything that enhances what was already great about the original. While it technically has enough new content in it to avoid being a pure live-action remake, all that new content brings to the film is 40 extra minutes of screen-time. Those interested in seeing it are better off just renting the original.
Final Grade: C-