“Beauty and the Beast”: a stale rehash?

Photo courtesy of @ouibeourguest/Instagram – In the film, Belle’s father encourages her to be a unique and strong woman.

The new “Beauty and the Beast” is one of the hottest movies at the box office right now, grossing $541.2 million since its Mar. 16 debut. This seems to be due to the fact that it is a remake of one of Disney’s most successful films. But the question is, can this classic Disney remake stand on its own, or does it need the support of the original to be relevant?

Unfortunately, that question doesn’t exactly have a straightforward answer. In short, the new “Beauty and the Beast” is a high-quality movie, certainly worth seeing if you enjoy fantasy films. So yes, it is a good enough film to stand on its own, but where it gets complicated is when it is compared to the original.

Emma Watson plays a convincing Belle, and Dan Stevens is a very likable Beast, perhaps even more likable than the prince. Luke Evans is an insufferable Gaston, meaning he was successful in his role as well. Overall, the performances by the actors were compelling all around, the story is timeless, and the film is well composed. However, there are a few differences between the old film and the new, and the modern additions were not entirely beneficial.

In his review of the live-action remake, renowned film critic Roger Ebert saw that this version of “Beauty and the Beast” has perhaps become too overdone and “Hollywood.”

“I couldn’t help but feel that the more-is-more philosophy that lurks behind many of these remakes weighs down not just the story but some key performances,” Ebert said. “This ‘Beauty’ is too often beset by blockbuster bloat.”

Parallels between Belle and the Beast both losing their mothers appeared forced to an engaged viewer, yet would likely go unnoticed by children watching anyhow. Many of the new additions to the revamped “Beauty and the Beast” seemed contrived and forced. A scene in which Belle appears to invent a type of washing machine feels out of place, although designed to add to the modern Belle’s sharp wit and feminist appeal.

The supporting cast is racially diverse, and the film suggests gay innuendo, both of which are welcome and progressive, but the execution was not quite seamless. Much like Belle’s blunt feminism in the modern take, these new elements in the film feel too obvious, or perhaps disingenuous at worst. We’re all for equality and independent women, but it seems Disney could have woven these elements into the film a bit more artfully. At times, the film can feel pushy and unbelievable—a bit like a university pamphlet on diversity—but it has good intentions at heart.

Overall, these negatives hardly detract from the film at all, but can break the viewer’s connection with the screen for a moment or two. Perhaps the storyline would have been more polished if Disney had refrained from “modernizing” parts of it, but it remains enjoyable to watch nonetheless.

“Beauty and the Beast” is still heartwarming, it still tugs at your emotions, and it still has the power to captivate an audience. The soundtrack is superb, and the cinematography and set design make the film believable.

If “Beauty and the Beast” deserved to be made into a live-action film, this is how it should be done. It isn’t just a remake for the sake of a money grab by Disney. It truly is a film worth seeing, especially if you’d like an excuse to take that someone special to the cinema this week.     

Written by Walker Chuppe, Arts & Culture Editor