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Featured Blu-ray and DVD Review: Beauty and the Beast

June 6th, 2017

Beauty and the Beast - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack
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Beauty and the Beast

There have been three previous adaptations in Disney’s recent streak of live-action adaptations. I’ve previously reviewed all of them and only really liked Maleficent. In fact, I like Maleficent more now than I did when it first came out, because it took the characters and made an original story with them, while the other two only had minor changes, but were mostly beat-for-beat remakes. I mention all of this before even mentioning Beauty and the Beast, because this is what I want in these movies. I want a reason to watch this version rather than the original. Does this film give me a reason?

The Movie

Short answer: Sort of, but not really. So the film’s not for me. Will it appeal to fans of this pseudo-franchise? Keep reading.

The film begins with a prologue that gives the Prince more backstory. Instead of being just a kid as in the original film, he’s an adult here. The prince taxes his subjects harshly and uses the money to surround himself in wealth and hold elaborate parties. At one such event, an old lady crashes the party looking for shelter from the storm offering a single rose, one that she picked from the Prince’s garden, as payment. He laughs at her, so she curses him, turning him into a Beast, and everyone living in the castle into various household objects, and erases him and the castle from the the minds of the locals. In order to break the curse, he must learn to love and be loved in return, all before the final petal on the rose falls off.

Flash forward many years and we meet Belle, who is a bookworm, apparently the only bookworm in the small provincial village she and her father, Maurice, live in. Everyone in town thinks she’s a little off; she even gets into trouble later on for trying to teach a girl to read. Everyone thinks she’s off, except Gaston, who thinks she should be his wife. Belle is not convinced, but that’s what draws Gaston to her. She’s the only woman in the village who doesn’t make a fool of herself to be with him. Belle’s father is a merchant and an inventor of sorts. He’s off to sell some goods and asks Belle what she wants while he’s away and like always, she asks for a rose.

Unfortunately, the trip isn’t an easy one, as a storm descends on Maurice and he becomes lost at night. When a tree is struck by lightning, his path is blocked and he has to take an alternative one. This path suddenly becomes covered in snow and he and his horse are attacked by a pack of wolves. There is a chase, but Maurice and his horse, Philippe, make it to a courtyard where the wolves refuse to follow. He finds the castle empty, or so he thinks. He notices some household objects moving and talking. It isn’t until Chip, a teacup, breaks character and talks to Maurice that he finally sees them. At this point, he panics and rides Philippe away from the castle. This would have been the end of it, but he remembers Belle’s request and pluck’s a rose. That’s when the Beast attacks.

Fortunately, Philippe is a smart horse and is able to make it back to Belle and bring her to the castle. When she goes inside, she finds Maurice in a cell. He warns her to leave, but the Beast arrives to confront them. Since the Beast was cursed forever due to a rose, he’s condemned Maurice to jail forever for stealing a rose. Belle offers to take his place. Maurice refuses, but Belle tricks him. After the Beast removes Maurice from the Castle, Lumiere arrives to let her out, while Cogsworth follows shortly. Lumiere knows about the curse and how to end it, so he puts into motion his plan to make Belle fall in love with the Beast.

We are just over 30 minutes in to the movie, but we are entering spoiler territory. Or “spoiler territory”, as there’s not much to spoil, if you’ve seen the original movie.

Beauty and the Beast earned weaker reviews than anticipated. It still earned overall positive reviews, but not overwhelmingly positive. I would like to think the rest of the critics are catching up to where I was with Maleficent. These movies are only worth watching if they give you a reason to watch them and not the original, and no, having amazing special effects and / or incredible production design isn’t enough, at least not in my opinion. However, if you do want spectacle, there’s plenty of that to be had. Turning “Be Our Guest” into an Esther Williams-inspired musical number exemplifies that. (There were short elements like that in the original animated film, but they are showcased here.) The overall production design is also award-worthy and I would not be surprised if the film picks up a number of Oscar nominations in the technical fields.

For the most part, the cast of the new film is good, but the cast of the original is better. I do like Emma Watson and Dan Stevens; in fact, Dan Stevens might be the best part of the movie. The voice actors come off the worse. Ewan McGregor is the best as Lumiere, but he can’t hold a candle (Ha ha! Puns!) to Jerry Orbach’s performance in the original. Angela Lansbury, David Ogden Stiers, etc. just make for a better voice cast.

I’m really happy these live-action adaptations are huge hits, because eventually Disney will want to do the same with The Black Cauldron and The Chronicles of Prydain is my favorite fantasy book series of all time. In the meantime, I prefer when they do something different with these films. There are some elements in Beauty and the Beast that do differ from the original movie, but not enough to truly stand out. It is worth checking out, but I think for most, the original is the better option.

The Extras

There’s no audio commentary track, but you can watch the movie with the overture as an introduction or in sing-along mode. Enchanted Table Read is a 13-minute table read for the film with interviews and using behind-the-scenes footage. It’s an interesting featurette to watch. A Beauty of a Tale is a 27-minute long making of featurette. The Women Behind Beauty and the Beast looks at the women who helped bring the movie to life. From Song to Screen is a four-part look at the creation of the musical numbers in the movie. Another song, “Days in the Sun” gets an extended version. Up next are six minutes of deleted scenes. Making a Moment with Celine Dion is a three-minute featurette with Celine Dion talking about her redoing the song and its connection to her late husband. Finally, there are a couple of music videos, one for “Beauty and the Beast” and a short making of featurette for that music video.

The Verdict

In my opinion, Beauty and the Beast doesn’t do enough to differentiate it from the original movie. However, what it does, it does well enough that it is worth checking out. If all you wanted from this movie was the original story, but live action, then the DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack is worth buying.

Filed under: Video Review, Beauty and the Beast, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Kevin Kline, Angela Lansbury, Jerry Orbach, David Ogden Stiers, Emma Watson, Esther Williams, Luke Evans, Dan Stevens, Celine Dion, Nathan Mack