Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast ½

I liked some things about Maleficent. I was impressed with parts of Jungle Book. But I have yet to see any convincing artistic or aesthetic reason that Disney's heavy-handed, garish remakes of its animated classics need to exist at all, and this strident, tiresome behemoth of a film is a case in point for why. I understand there are people out there with kids who don't know the songs by heart, and for them, it's a different experience entirely, and they're welcome to it. But I saw this in an IMAX screen full of people my age who were clearly raised on the 1991 animated version, and still came away vocally, performatively enthused about this film, and I could not for a moment tell you why.

The original has a simplicity and cleanness to it — to the songs, the performances, the animation, the emotion, the characters. The title song has one of the most touching and incisive lyrics in any Disney movie, and it's delivered perfectly. ("Bittersweet and strange / Finding you can change / Learning you were wrong.") This remake turns everything about the movie into a loud, garish, visually complicated mess, full of Turned! To! Eleven! grimacing performances and songs inexplicably muddled with extra musical phrases that don't add anything but length.

There are a bunch of irritating off-key touches, like turning Beast from a tragic illiterate who needs Belle's help into a condescending pedant who sneers at her for liking Romeo And Juliet when, in his considered medieval-monster-hipster opinion, there are better things to read. I really hated the busy, ugly CGI versions of the household staff, especially Mrs. Potts, who's so much less expressive and interesting in her digital form.

But mostly, this film follows the original version's script and songs closely, just executing almost everything in a more awkward, spastic way. The whole film felt like someone shouting the original script at me as loudly as possible, while wearing a ridiculously loud sweater.

I wrote about it for The Verge, focusing specifically on all the wasted opportunities in the movie.