Belle by Comparison

I try to be supportive of Disney, and I try to keep an open mind.  Some who know me might readily disagree with that statement given my record when it comes to remakes, but I contend I’m not the problem.  When you remake a classic, the bar is set high.  When the same company remakes the same movie, translating an animated classic to live action, it has to be something special if it’s going to work.  So far this has been hit and miss for Disney, mostly miss.  Cinderella was visually beautiful, but not great.  Alice in Wonderland was abysmal to the point I couldn’t finish it.  The Jungle Book was fantastic.  And Pete’s Dragon, while considerably different, had a great deal of heart.

Now my sights are on Beauty and Beast.  I’m just going to say this up front.  I have no particular issues with Emma Watson as an actress or as a singer.  She’s acceptable… just not as Belle.  Disney released a minute of the film’s opening number, and it pretty much confirmed that statement for me.  I think this movie is going to end up much like their Cinderella remake: visually interesting, but missing something vital in translation.  For Belle specifically, the problem comes from the fact that Emma Watson has grown into a fine actress, but she’s not a professionally-trained singer.  To my ears, she’s missing… something.  She’s no Paige O’Hara.  To be fair, who can be?  Let me just put these clips back to back, and you can tell me what you think.

See what I mean?  It’s like Emma’s holding back, or possibly that she’s unable to take the vocals nearly as far as Paige did.   Or do you find Emma to more than adequate to the role?  Let me know what you think.

For myself, I think curiosity will probably drive me to see the film on home video at some point.  What I can tell from this and from trailers so far, this doesn’t look bad.  It just doesn’t look special, which is what these kinds of movies should be.

 

26 thoughts on “Belle by Comparison

  1. I think the average pop fan movie goer cannot distinguish a decent voice from a professionally trained one, so Disney goes with the big name sure to bring in the crowds. I know my 15 year old daughter who has grown up with HP can’t wait to see this because of Emma.

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  2. Here’s the thing though, most moviegoers have told Hollywood with their ticket purchases, that the society really doesn’t want live action musicals anymore. Personally, I find that a damn shame, as there were some really great ones back in the day. (Yeah, I’m a Rodgers and Hammerstein fan, but I also loved Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.) The old Disney animateds like Beauty and the Beast were the last vestiges of those types of movies, as evidenced by the fact that more recent releases like Zootopia and Inside Out don’t have much in the way of original songs. So, when Disney decides to remake those old animated movies, they have to strike a balance between the kiddie/pre-teen crowd that doesn’t really care about or want those songs versus the nostalgia crowd that really does want to see that content.

    That being said, I, too, am not impressed with the new version of the “Belle” song. I viewed it as more of a conversation set to music, rather than a conversation done completely in song like the old one was. Emma did it well enough, but I have to wonder if she was directed to do it that way, rather than just outright singing it, which may have been more natural for her.

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    • That’s it exactly — film studio executives tend only to respect the box office numbers and little else.

      I have trouble believing that a quality screen musical wouldn’t draw in the crowds that enjoy the live shows. Maybe there’s a stigma there or something, but even if the box office numbers aren’t there, you’d think the video sales would help to reflect that and build further interest that would drive later box office numbers. While Zootopia and Inside Out didn’t have those songs, Moana did. And while it didn’t have the box office numbers of those other two, I think it’ll pick up steam on the home video market. Time will tell, I suppose. It does support your arguments though.

      Direction has a lot to do with performances, that’s so true. I just would have liked to have heard more in that performance. It’s not fair, but like I say, Paige O’Hara is a tough act to follow. They’ll have a similarly tough time following Jodi Benson when they put The Little Mermaid out there. I know that’s in the works from Lin Manuel Miranda, and I know from interviews that he absolutely gets it, so we’ll see what happens.

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  3. As far as her performance goes, she kept up with the others around her. All the performers weren’t as animated, for lack of a better term (although it might be perfect in this case), as they were in the original film. How could they be? You know the things that happen with voice actors behind a microphone. They’ll do anything to achieve a sound or power through emotions, because there isn’t a camera and there to show just how badly they might look trying to get there. It’s an unfair comparison because you’re never going to get these people to do the incredible range that no only a trained singer can get, but a voice actor on top of all that? Most voice actors are incredible singers to go along with it. Not to mention the director is going to coax that idealism in full from his people. The animation dept. at Disney knew what they needed back then, and they shot for it.

    As it is, you knew going into this that this would not be a standard musical. They wanted to tell the story and they will drop in the songs, because it’s not Disney’s version of this story without them. Add to that, they won’t aim for anything like the Sound of Music. Maybe La La Land will inspire something. Haven’t seen it myself, but I’ve heard it’s supposed to be a musical and it’s done rather well for itself. Who knows? All I can say is that what is presented here isn’t going to live up to 1991. You know this going into it. I don’t need a remake of all the Disney classics, because they were freakin’ classics. Classic stories that were turned into classic films. This will be gorgeous, I can see that as well as anyone. I think Emma Watson is a fantastic actress, and will do a really good job here, which I think the kids will love and the adults will either smile and live with it, or loathe it for not being what they remembered. Out of everything they’ve worked up so far, this is the one I’m most interested in. Having said that, it’s still not got me that overjoyed. I’d rather them have spent the money finding another story and putting that to animation or live film instead of doing this.

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    • Spot-on, per usual. On top of all of that, the animation dept back then had Broadway people involved on both sides of that mic. It makes a world of difference from acting and directing. Just think… they’ve already got The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and The Lion King lined up too.

      I, unfortunately, have seen La La Land. It was Hollywood pleasuring itself, to put it in the least offensive terms possible. Not good, not bad, just… meh. Completely forgettable in nearly every respect. But the masses were told to love it because Hollywood loves to award movies that show their love for Hollywood. Maybe they’re seeing something I didn’t see.

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      • You also have to be mindful of the fact that these people aren’t cut from the same cloth that the old school were. These were people who knew the history of where their actor/actress predecessors came from. They knew that the stage could’ve been Broadway or Vaudeville. They were aware that to make it, really make it, the performer had to dance, sing and act. Sometimes all at once. You may not have had the comedy chops of Groucho Marx, or as good a dancer as Gene Kelly, but you might bring charm and real dramatic performance like Clark Gable or Humphrey Bogart. You know all this. Some of the actors and actress now are trying to get that back, but it doesn’t mean they’ve trained since they were kids, or were naturally gifted to it. They are going to have a harder time getting where they need to be with it than they ever had back then.

        Yeah, I know what all they plan to do, and I’m shaking my head about the whole thing. The only casting choice I’ve agreed with up to this point is that they’ve confirmed James Earl Jones for Mufasa, Of course they did! You don’t replace that man! As to the rest, I don’t really care all that much. Aladdin especially will sink. They replaced Robin Williams for the first Direct to DVD sequel, and the TV series. The guy really tried, but it wasn’t Robin. You cannot just replace him. They have no one these days to even come close, and for that alone, Genie just won’t be right.

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  4. Like others have said, the audience / age group this is aimed at will not know the difference. However, I don’t see it as a great disaster because it may drive some viewers to investigate the previous version, or even want to see it performed on stage. So, in this sense, if the new version helps promote actual stage craft, it can’t be bad. Is it disappointing that the producers/director are going for popular appeal rather than singing ability in what essentially is a musical performance. Yes. Yes it is.

    But saying that, I applaud Emma Watson for taking it on. It can’t have been that easy to take on a singing role. Quite a brave move, if you ask me, when she could have pursued other roles that may have been better suited to her previous experience.

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