So here’s the thing: Beauty and the Beast (1991) is my very favorite movie. And Beauty and the Beast (2017) is the first movie I ever walked out on.
I’m not that proud of it. I wish I could have sat through the rest of it, but everything up to the point I walked out (when Belle snuck into the West Wing and subsequent conflict from that) was just Too Much, if that makes any sense. It probably doesn’t. Probably I’m just too nostalgic, or too much of a purist, or Too Much myself. But this film is trying so hard to play on viewers’ nostalgia, and to remind viewers of the 1991 original, that I can’t help but think it fell into its own trap. Every attempt to remind us of the animated film reveals what it really is: a pale, cold imitation.
But almost from the very start, the movie was distracting. The prologue’s narrator put the emphasis on the wrong words so often it threw me out of the movie. Emma Watson’s voice, autotuned or not, lacks any of the warmth of Paige O’Hara. (And she still does that weird stuff with her eyebrows.) That’s something I could say about the “whole” film: it has no warmth, no joy. It’s trying so hard to be like the original that it doesn’t bother trying to do its own thing.
Mind you, I did like the things that were different, the brief flashes of something original: that the castle was locked in eternal winter, and the enchanted objects becoming more inanimate as the rose wilted. I like that Maurice worked in delicate clockwork rather than being a kooky inventor, and that they kept part of the original fairy tale’s reason for the Beast demanding a price from him: he stole a single rose. I thought Gaston and LeFou were quite funny.
But there was so much else wrong that I couldn’t keep my eyes on the screen from sheer embarrassment. Ewan McGregor and Emma Thompson’s accents didn’t do them any favors. The costumes were trying so hard to be Realistic that they fell into this weird uncanny valley of fakeness. As much as I liked the original stuff, the movie aped the animated version so often that it distracted me. Every time they repeated a line from the original, I got jerked out of the movie, and they did it often.
In the end, I just couldn’t stand it. Maybe the second half of the movie was better. Maybe it improved. Maybe the ballroom scene had that sheer awe and love of the animated version. (I doubt it, going by the promo pics of it.) But honestly, I think the whole thing was a calculated money-grab, playing on viewers’ nostalgia to get them into theater seats.
But that’s just me, I guess.