Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Long time ago, Disney re-issued its animated classics every few years on the big screen before stashing them back in the studio vault. But in the 1990s, with the advent of home entertainment, the studio started to consider new ways beyond revivals to cash in on the same beloved stories. First came Broadway productions, followed by direct-to-video sequels, TV series spinoffs and then, starting in 2010 with Tim Burton’s effects-laden Alice in Wonderland, digitally-enhanced live-action renditions.

It was inevitable therefore, that 1991’s Beauty and the Beast, the first animated film to compete in Oscar’s Best Picture category, would receive a 21st-century makeover after Alice in the Wonderland, Cinderella and The Jungle Book.

But, all in between the remake, the question lies: Was it necessary? Well, it may be a complicated question on many accounts, as LeFou (Josh Gad) would say. But the simple answer would be: No. After watching all the four live action remakes of some of Disney’s most valuable gems, I have a simple analysis. I conclude, that Disney should only remake those films, where none or only one central human character is involved (read, I’m desperately waiting for a The Lion King remake).

And that, I think is the precise reason why, The Jungle Book turned out to be the lovely film that it was. Here too, in Beauty and the Beast, you’ll find some of the old magic in the crockeries, clock and candelabras. But rest of the film, the magic seems to have been lost. The 2017 remake of Beauty and the Beast, is a much denser — and longer, by a considerable 45 minutes — confection, one that doesn’t always go down as easily as the less-adorned yet lighter-than-air angel food cake that was the original.

It’s true that my heart once again went pitty-pat during the ballroom waltz as Emma Thompson voicing Mrs. Potts warmly warbling the title theme. But 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.

Bill Condon beautifies the scenes by injecting the lushness and scope of tune-filled spectacles of yore into the world of IMAX 3-D.  But, some scenes seems to have a overdose of that. Particularly, the stand-out number in the original, “Be Our Guest,” the so-called “culinary cabaret” where plates, platters and utensils turn into performers in a Busby Berkeley-style spectacular, is made into a pretty banged-up job.

I’m going with 3/5 stars for Bill Condon’s remake of Beauty and the Beast. Though it fails to recapture the magic of the original, still it would be a spectacular watch for the younger generation of kids and youngsters, to whom the original might seem as a tale as old as time.