Beauty and the Beast (2017) Review

Beauty and the Beast (2017) movie posterSynopsis
Belle (Emma Watson) takes her father’s place as the prisoner for the Beast (Dan Stevens).  The Beast hopes to win Belle’s heart and break the spell that has been placed on him, his castle, and its inhabitants.

Review
Disney is currently going through a phase of remaking its animated films as live action films.  There have been a few of their lesser (although no less loved) classics already made and now they are stepping up to remake one of their most popular films, one that even holds the honor of being the first animated film nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.  Disney’s previous live action remakes have gone in several different directions.  Maleficent retold Sleeping Beauty’s tale from the titular fairy’s point of view, whereas last year’s The Jungle Book, told a similar story to their 1967 classic while incorporating more of the original book’s source material, making it feel new yet familiar.  Where does Beauty and The Beast stand? Well, knowing that their Disney Renaissance film is such a well known and well loved film, it follows very closely to the original. Maybe a little too close.

Beauty and the Beast‘s biggest strength comes from its cast.  Emma Watson, to no surprise, is an absolute gem.  Her Belle is every bit as gentle yet strong as her animated predecessor.  Watson mentioned many times in interviews that Belle means a lot to her on a personal level and that love for the character really shines through.  Not only that, she has great chemistry with Dan Stevens, who plays Beast, which seems like a silly thing to say since Beast is a CGI character. However, Stevens’ emotion is still felt through the computer animation, leading to several touching moments throughout the film.

Besides Watson as Belle and Stevens as Beast, I thought the other characters were well cast also.  Luke Evans’ experience in theater made him a perfect fit as Gaston.  He brings the same charisma we’ve come to expect from his animated counterpart.  Josh Gad’s short and stout stature fit the character of LeFou perfectly, and I’m sure his experience as Frozen’s Olaf helped with the musical numbers as well. Kevin Kline was a more composed, less village-crazy-man incarnation of Maurice, Belle’s father, than the 1991 version.  Ian McKellen embodied the character of Cogsworth flawlessly. While Ewan McGregor’s French accent is a little dodgy, it never bothered me too much and he was still fun.

What surprised me the most about this film was how humorous it was! The original had plenty of laughs, sure, but I don’t remember it for its comedy.  This time, however, there were multiple times the entire theater would burst out laughing.  It definitely kept the mood light.

The set and costume design for this movie undeniably gorgeous. The majority of this film takes place within Beast’s castle and the ornate designs and decorations give it a breathtaking appearance. Everything is extremely detailed and well thought out and designed. It all deserves some recognition, from the castle’s furniture and stone towers, to the characters’ 18th century outfits, even character designs for the living objects, such as Lumiere, Cogsworth, and Mrs. Potts.

My biggest flaw with Beauty and the Beast is that it doesn’t expand on, or do anything new with, the 1991 classic. Instead, what it does do is fill in and clean up the story.  For example, Gaston is painted in more of a villainous light, Belle’s family is given more of a background, the movie’s timeline is tightened, and more is revealed about the Enchantress’ spell. Disney’s other live-action remakes they have done so far have each told their own story using characters we were acquainted with, albeit with varying success.  This film, on the other hand, hits the exact same beats and the characters go through the same motions as before.  In essence, all this film is what the 1991 Beauty and the Beast would look like with live actors.

I thought Beauty and the Beast was GOOD 🙂 If you are a fan of the Disney Renaissance classic, you will more than likely enjoy this remake since it follows it very closely.  However, that is also its biggest weakness, in that it simply fills in some story points but never does anything wholly original.  It does make up for it though, with fantastic casting all around and great chemistry between Emma Watson and Dan Stevens.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Bill Condon – Director
Stephen Chbosky – Screenplay
Evan Spiliotopoulos – Screenplay
Alan Menkin – Composer

Emma Watson – Belle
Dan Stevens – Beast
Luke Evans – Gaston
Josh Gad – LeFou
Kevin Kline – Maurice
Ewan McGregor – Lumiere
Ian McKellen – Cogsworth
Emma Thompson – Mrs. Potts
Nathan Mack – Chip
Audra McDonald – Madame Garderobe
Stanley Tucci – Maestro Cadenza
Gugu Mbatha- Raw – Plumette
Rita Davies – Old Woman
Hattie Morahan – Agathe / Enchantress

Aladdin Review

Aladdin movie posterSynopsis
Aladdin (Scott Weinger), a street boy, is always getting into trouble and dreams of living in the palace. Princess Jasmine (Linda Larkin) is being forced to marry but doesn’t like any of her suitors. When these two cross paths in the market place, they fall in love. However, Jasmine can only merry a prince, so Aladdin gets help from the magical Genie of the lamp (Robin Williams) to turn him into a prince and marry Jasmine. Meanwhile, the Sultan’s (Douglas Seale) royal vizer and trusted adviser, Jafar (Jonathan Freeman), tries to retrieve the magic lamp for himself to take over the kingdom.

Review
Oh, man. Aladdin. This is one of my all-time favorite animated films. When I was younger, I would watch my VHS copy everyday (at least until Toy Story was on home video). Over the years I have constantly watched it over and over again. There is something about Aladdin that no matter how many times I watch it, I still enjoy it just as much as when I would drive my parents crazy watching it nonstop.

In 1992, computer animation was in its early stages. Beauty and the Beast was the first animated movie to really utilize the technology the year before. Aladdin picks up where Beauty and the Beast left off. It beautifully blends traditional and computer animations. In scenes like the Cave of Wonders collapse, it can be difficult to see a distinction between the two. It truly is a sight to behold.

A movie is only as good as its characters. When you don’t like the characters, chances are you won’t like the movie either. One of the reasons Aladdin‘s story is so great (and powerful) is because the film establishes a connection between the viewer and the characters early on. Aladdin means well, even though he is a thief; Jasmine wants to get married for love, not because she has to; Genie is trapped and wants freedom. These are all relatable, adding another layer to the story/characters.

Disney hit the nail on the head with the voice casting. Jonathan Freeman is calm and malicious as Jafar, which makes Jafar even creepier considering how evil you know he is. Gilbert Gottfried is spectacular as Iago, Jafar’s loudmouthed, eccentric parrot. But hands down, the best casting is Robin Williams as the magical Genie. He can change his voice and mannerisms so quickly it’s amazing. Animation is limited only by the imagination, and Williams’ imagination seems to have no bounds. He fills this movie to the brim of all sorts of celebrity and character imitations. Some may go over the children’s heads, but these make it fun for the older viewers. Being an animated (not literally of course) person himself, Williams is a perfect match for Genie.

I’m going to break from this review for a moment to tell a story. Don’t worry, it will come back around. As I mentioned before, I watched Aladdin all the time when I was a kid. One of the people who ended up watching it with me was my dad. Now my dad and I have a very similar taste in movies, but he tends to lean more towards action and slap-stick movies. This last time watching Aladdin, he saw what I was watching and sat on the couch next to me and watched it with me. When I told him I was surprised he decided to join me, he took a jab at me about how many times he saw it then said, “It has been a while, I figured it was time to see it again.” Later, my little brother, who for some odd reason refuses to watch any movie not made in the last ten years, saw my dad and I watching Aladdin he sat down next to us and the three of us finished the movie together.

What my story is getting to, and really the reason I think Aladdin is such an amazing movie, is that no matter who you are, or your taste in movies, almost everyone enjoys Aladdin. The excellent story, memorable and relatable characters, catchy songs, and Robin Williams’ voice work makes Aladdin a movie that is genuinely enjoyed by all ages.

Rating
5/5

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Ron Clements – Director
John Musker – Director
Ted Elliott – Screenplay
Terry Rossio – Screenplay
Alan Menken – Composer
Howard Ashman – Songwriter
Tim Rice – Songwriter

Scott Weinger – Aladdin
Brad Kane – Aladdin (singing voice)
Linda Larkin – Jasmine
Lea Salonga – Jasmine (singing voice)
Robin Williams – Genie / Merchant
Jonathan Freeman – Jafar
Frank Welker – Abu / Rajah / Cave of Wonders
Gilbert Gottfried – Iago
Douglas Seale – The Sultan
Jim Cummings – Razoul / Farouk