Saved by the Belle

Emma Watson rescues Disney redo

Starring Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellen. Directed by Bill Condon. Cinemark 14, Feather River Cinemas and Paradise Cinema 7. Rated PG.
Rated 3.0

Beauty and the Beast, Disney’s wonderful 1991 animated musical adaptation of the classic French fairy tale, has become the latest film on Disney’s Live Redo of a Beloved Animated Movie assembly line. This one is a big budget effort starring Emma Watson as the iconic Belle and Ewan McGregor as a CGI candelabra.

You’re asking yourself, “Is this absolutely necessary?”

The answer: No. No, it is not.

After hearing this answer, you take a walk with a nice cup of tea and your thoughts. You sit in the shade under your favorite tree and contemplate the plight of American movies today, for you like to crowd your mind with trivial things while drinking herbal mixtures.

Then, you ask yourself, “OK, if it isn’t necessary, is it at least an enjoyable pastime? I like enjoyable pastimes. They help distract me from all of this trivial shit in my head.”

The answer: Why, yes, it is an enjoyable distraction, even if it is completely unnecessary.

The movie isn’t a shot-for-shot remake of the original. However, it does follow a lot of the same plot points and incorporates enough of the musical numbers to give you that sense of déjà vu.

Hermione makes for a strong Belle, and Watson’s performance is what makes the film worthwhile. Since director Bill Condon retains the music from the original animated movie, Watson is asked to sing, and it’s pretty evident that Auto-Tune is her friend. She has a Kanye West vocal thing going.

As the Prince/Beast, Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey fame) gives a decent enough performance via motion capture. The original intent was to have a live Stevens wearing prosthetics, but he probably looked like Mr. Snuffleupagus, so they called upon the help of beloved computers. And the CGI creation blends in nicely with his totally human, organic cast member.

The cast and crew labor to make musical numbers like “Gaston” and “Be Our Guest” pop with the creative energy of the animated version, but they don’t quite reach those heights. They are nicely rendered, for sure, but not on the masterpiece level of the original. As for the romance between Belle and the Beast, it has a nice emotional payoff. In a way, the movie is a sweet tribute to the animated movie, rather than being a movie that truly stands on its own.

Where does the film stack up with the other, recent redos of animated Disney classics? I would put it well above Pete’s Dragon, but below Cinderella and The Jungle Book, which were more solid and a little more on the original side.

There are worse things to do in cinemas right now than watch a good enough retake on a Disney classic starring a favorite member of the Potter universe. Beauty and the Beast tastes good, yet is ultimately empty fluff. Face it, Disney has the money to throw away on ventures such as this and, given its box office takes, this train is going to keep on rolling. The Lion King, Aladdin, Dumbo, Peter Pan and Mulan are just a few of the remakes coming down the tracks. Actually, pretty much everything the company has done up until now is being remade.

In short, with the redo juggernaut, plus Star Wars and Marvel franchises all under its dome, Disney is so big, it will be governing the planet soon. Stay tuned for Disney Health Care, a Disney Missile Defense System and Mickey Mouse for president.

Oh, wait, that last one has happened already.