A tale as old as time…
I may have misremembered this, but I believe way back in 1991, it was said that the best new musical opening that season in New York wasn’t to be found on Broadway but in the cinema. Disney’s masterpiece became the first and only animated movie to be nominated for Best Film at the Oscars.
It is a classic.
Jump forward a few years and Disney reimagined it as a stage show. I remember seeing this at London’s Dominion Theatre and, whilst enjoying it, the Family Bazza all thought it wasn’t a patch on the original animation.
Fast forward to 2017, and this time Disney have remade it as a big-budgeted live action musical under the direction of Bill Condon.
And my feelings were similar. Though obviously made with real care , you can’t help but make comparisons to the original. And in that respect the film falters.
Unlike their recent live action adaptations, Cinderella and the Jungle Book, this is far more faithful to the source animation, which at times seems to have acted as a story board in key song sequences such as Belle, Be My Guest and the title number.
There are of course embellishments – new character motivations, some new songs. All of which are fine and the movie never drags – it is well paced.
A star cast all work hard from Emma Watson as Belle to Dan Stephens, though the CGI for the Beast could have been refined. And yet there is more nuance still to be found in the original animator’s performance of The Beast in the original cartoon. And more heart in Paige O’ Hara’s glorious singing as Belle. Admittedly in this version a standout is Luke Evans, who really captures Gaston, still wonderfully using “antlers in all of his decorating.”
And of course it’s the score of Menken and Ashman (plus Rice) that still makes the film soar. Outstanding.
Don’t get me wrong, with a pedigree this good, this is a very enjoyable movie – but on many occasions I felt I was watching an admittedly classy imitation of the real “animated” thing.
For me – now and always – it will be Angela Lansbury singing that ‘tale as old as time’….