Beauty and the Beast (2017) – Part 1

Many of us who’re in our mid 30s and older would have seen Disney’s first preview trailer of Beauty and the Beast in May last year, and equally held our breadth to see how will Emma Watson fare as one half of the titular pair of characters would sound in the signature numbers made famous from the 1991 film. The first trailer featuring snippets of the sung numbers hit the online circuits in January this year – which is likely about when many of us might have taken a collective sign of relief. And another good number probably groaned – “Oh S H * T”.

I was in the latter. In a nutshell; the film is great if you’re squarely in Disney’s intended audience for this – i.e. a young adult or younger still – generally OK if you’ve never seen the 1991 original – and if you have, like me, then anywhere from Great to Awful. Me, I rank it a Barely Passable. I caught an early afternoon viewing of the newly released film at Shaw @ Nex yesterday afternoon – back to back with a morning screening of Kong: Skull Island just before that at the same cineplex. The afternoon screening of Beauty and the Beast was not surprisingly largely filled with adults, many of whom were retirees.

The film is of course a life-action remark of the 1991 classic, which in part stirred the short-lived resurgence of interest in hand-drawn animated films before the wave died off in preference for 3D animation. Beauty and the Beast (1991) also remains the only animated film to ever have been nominated for the Academy’s Best Picture, an award it regrettably did not win that year (that award went to The Silence of the Lambs). I don’t see this remake ever getting the same kind of recognition, though I reckon that it might be at least nominated for a couple of the technical awards.

So, the good bits, and minor spoilers:

It’s watchable. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the source, the general story remains easy to follow, characters are easy to distinguish, there are no quick-cuts to give you nausea (for the most part that is – see comment on Be My Guest in the next post), and the production is lavish. Spoken dialog is also comprehensible.

The trio of supporting merchandise antique characters – Lumière (Ewan McGregor), Cogsworth (Ian McKellen) and Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson) – all sound like they are having a good time. You can’t be certain of course, since they exist largely as computer-generated creations until the last bits of the film. A special nod also goes to Kevin Kline, one other supporting non-digital character who brought a much needed dose of earthly grounding back to the film.

Emma Thompson’s signature number – “Beauty and the Beast” – is lovingly sung, and I reckon on par with Angela Lansbury’s rendition of the same from 1991. Kevin Kline’s song “How Does a Moment Last Forever” – a short one though and not in the 1991 film too – is also sung full of heart, and moving.

It’s significantly longer than the animated film, and at past 2 hours longer by even current films intended for kids. Some bits of that additional time are inserted into the sung pieces – e.g. there are stoppages for dialgue in “Belle”, and “Gaston“, insertions which I found disruptive –  while others are more effectively in the form of scenes that fill in the story gaps, especially in relation to both protagonists’ parents.

Likewise, the film also tries to address some oddities in the 1991 film – e.g. how and whether the Prince (Beast) reconciled with the villagers mob at the film’s end.

The last act when all seems lost and the Beast’s curse going to last for eternity is beautifully done and made me tear up. *sniff*

More in the next post!

 

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