Saved by the Belle

“Won her over with my library. Chicks dig books.”

“Won her over with my library. Chicks dig books.”

Director: Bill Condon

Starring: Emma Watson, Ewan McGregor, Dan Stevens

Rated 3.0

Beauty and the Beast, Disney’s wonderful animated musical from 1991, becomes part of the Disney Live Redo of a Beloved Animated Movie assembly line with a big-budget effort starring Emma Watson as the iconic Belle and Ewan McGregor as a CGI candelabra.

You are 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, for 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 movie, even if it is completely unnecessary.

The movie isn’t a shot for shot remake of the original like, say, Gus Van Sant’s time-wasting

Psycho effort. However, it does follow a lot of the same plot points and incorporates enough of the musical numbers to give you that sense of déj&#;agrave; vu while watching it.

Thankfully, Watson makes it worthwhile. Hermione makes for a strong Belle. 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 thing going.

As the Beast, Dan Stevens gives a decent enough performance through motion-capture. The original intent was to have Stevens wearing prosthetics only, but he probably looked like Mr. Snuffleupagus in dailies, so they called upon the help of beloved computers. Like King Kong last week, 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 that was the ’91 film. 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 stands on its own.

Where does Beauty and the Beast 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 efforts and felt 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 movie starring one of your favorite members of the Potter universe. Beauty and the Beast is good-tasting yet ultimately disposable fluff. Let’s face it, Disney has the money to throw away on ventures such as this and, given their box office takes, this train is going to keep on rolling.

If you like Disney redo fluff, there’s more coming. The Lion King, Aladdin, Dumbo, Peter Pan and Mulan are just a few of the remakes in the pipeline. Actually, pretty much everything they’ve done up until now is being remade. Universal has a Little Mermaid movie on the way, yet Disney still has plans to release its own live version of the animated gem. Winnie the Pooh and Cruella, the villain from 101 Dalmatians, are also current projects.

In short, with this juggernaut, Star Wars and Marvel all under their dome, Disney is so big, they 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.