Beauty and the Beast: Nostalgia and the New

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Tale as old as time, a song as old as rhyme,

Disney’s second go-around on their version of this classic fairy tale follows the roughly the same narrative structure as its animated predecessor. Bookish beauty and the village fish out of water Belle refuses a proposal from the town hunk/lug, trades her freedom for her father’s, learns to develop compassion for her captor, and eventually after a series of events, earns a happily ever after with her newly transformed prince.

It’s truly a tale as old as time, and little was changed from the basic bone structure of the original Disney version’s narrative. If you’ve watched the Disney cartoon before, you won’t be thrown any curve balls that drastically alter the story.

Change did happen, thought, and not every change was a beauty.

On a positive note, to Disney’s credit, a lot of the major plot holes most people started to notice about the movie when they rewatched the cartoon on the other side of their childhood as adults. Questions like “how did no one notice a local prince and a bunch of his servants just go missing”and “how did Belle lift the Beast onto the horse after he rescues her from wolves” actually receive plausible, logical answers.

On top of filling in the plot holes on the road of this narrative, the main cast of characters also received more fleshed out narratives, and questions about certain characters’ backstories are answered.  We find out what exactly happened to Belle’s mother and get a better understanding of who the Beast was prior to his transformation. They are recognizable, real characters.

Le Fou, Gaston’s faithful sidekick, receives the most expansion to his comedic relief side-kick role. Armed with a much-more obvious unrequited love for his muscular best friend that some theaters deemed “inappropriate” for some odd reason , this Le Fou appears to posses much more of a conscience. Several times throughout the film, in spite of his obvious affections towards his crass companion, he express hesitation and cautions Gaston towards a different, kinder choice. He is also awarded a more complete ending.

Taking this old as time tale into the modern age required the most modern of technologies. To mix iconic characters like Lumière and Cogsworth with the live-action characters like Emma Watson’s Belle, the film used CGI and while it didn’t suffer from any obvious technical glitches, the overuse of it did cause a beast of a distraction. In small doses, the integration of the computer generated characters mixed with the live-action actors created and enhanced the developing story on screen. When the CGI was more dominate or when only CGI characters were on screen, the realness of the movie was nonexistent. It took you right out of the story and reminded you that you were watching a film.

“Be Our Guest” suffered the greatest from this overuse of modern technology. The audience didn’t get to watch Belle’s experience. She was on screen briefly at the beginning and end of the famed musical number but remained absent through the majority of the song. While the musical number was as lively as it was supposed to be, when the “guest” in “Be Our Guest” is largely absent and only computer animated clips are on screen, it’s hard to buy into the story.

Was it a bad movie? No, not by a long shot. The musical numbers were well-performed. The story stayed true to its origins, at least the Disney ones. Casting was well chosen. It was just a good movie.

The problem? It was nothing new.

This film is just another remake of a classic of yesteryear. It wasn’t bad, but what was so special about it in the end? It didn’t add anything all that new to Disney’s original or films in general.

Instead of creating more new, Disney just recycled the old.

A tale as old as time, and Disney, it’s getting old.