Blu-ray Review: Beauty and the Beast (2017)

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You have to hand it to Disney. They've practically figured out how to print money. After decades of releasing and re-releasing their animated features, capitalizing on the ability to hook every new generation of young viewers, they've taken to remaking those animated as classic as live-action features. The sky seems to be the limit as the latest adaptation, Beauty and the Beast, positively cleaned up at the box office. Following fast on the heels of its $1.2 billion worldwide gross (tops for 2017 so far, by quite a margin), Disney has turned the film loose on the home video market. Why the emphasis on money? Because there is no other reason for this live-action adaptation to exist.

They've done this every year since 2014's Malificent and they reportedly have a slate of further remakes planned. Beauty and the Beast updates the 1991 film that became the first animated feature to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture (it lost to the juggernaut that was Silence of the Lambs; it should've lost to JFK but that's another story). And to say they've "updated" the '91 film is actually a bit of a stretch. More so than any of their previous adaptations this one takes a very conservative approach, sticking pretty close to the original (while managing to add about 45 minutes to the running time). 
rsz_beauty-and-the-beast-2017.jpg It's a striking production, with all the Beast's talking household knickknacks (not to mention the lush production design) providing eye candy to spare. It's also arguably overkill when compared to its perfectly simple animated counterpart. But millions of moviegoers can't be wrong, so let's just say the new Beauty handles its F/X extremely well. And (spoiler alert) seeing the various animated objects—the candelabra (voiced by Ewan McGregor), the harpischord (Stanley Tucci), the clock (Ian McKellen), and more—eventually restored to human form is a treat.

Emma Watson makes for an acceptable flesh-and-blood Belle, the bookish ingenue who's taken captive by the bitter Beast (Dan Stevens), formerly an ego-driven Prince. Watson's unforced charm goes some way toward convincing us that this intelligent young woman could in fact come to love her oppressive captor. I guess. In live-action form, Belle's embrace of this ghastly creature—who initially imprisoned her father (Kevin Kline) for a petty offense, subsequently imprisoning her in exchange for daddy's release—seems even less likely than ever before. A passing effort is made at empowering Belle in order to make her more than a prototypical damsel in distress, but she never quite blossoms into a fully formed character.

Disney's Blu-ray presentation doesn't disappoint—the DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix is the showstopper here. Beauty and the Beast is, of course, all about the songs. The music sounds terrific throughout. As for special features, much of it predictably involves the songs. "From Song to Screen: Making the Musical Sequences" (13 minutes) is the best featurette here, providing a neat look at all the work that went into the film's best scenes. "A Beauty of a Tale" (27 minutes) has some solid behind-the-scenes material as well.

The video for the Ariana Grande and John Legend remake of the title tune is included, along with a brief "Making of the Video" featurette. There are karaoke versions of the film's songs for singalong purposes. Additional featurettes focus on Emma Watson, Celine Dion (who sings one of the film's new songs, "How Does a Moment Last Forever"), and the cast's table read. Minor supplements include an extended song sequence ("Days In the Sun") and a handful of deleted scenes.


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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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