I’ve been thinking about the trend of Hollywood remakes of classic movies, and I decided an article should be written specifically about Disney’s live-action remakes. Thus far, Disney has endeavored to make live adaptations for Cinderella, The Jungle Book, Beauty & The Beast, and Pete’s Dragon, with Mulan, Dumbo, Aladdin, Little Mermaid, and more potentially waiting in the wings.
I watched the first three movies in the theaters, mostly out of pure nostalgia for the original movies. The end results left me wholly disappointed with a bitter taste in my mouth, sadly. Thusly, I feel inspired to write short and bittersweet recaps for Cinderella, The Jungle Book, and Beauty & The Beast and share my semi-biased opinion on how these movies failed.
One of my earliest childhood memories playing with my siblings memories was putting the Disney record of Cinderella’s songs onto the record player and dancing about as the mice. This movie was my introduction to the animated magic inherent to Disney movies, and I went into the theater for the 2015 live version with high hopes. Unfortunately, the live version added no extra value to the overall Cinderella story, in my opinion.
No offense intended for Lily James, but her sweetness was not enough to carry the movie to the same magical heights as the animated classic. A lack of singing animals, a less-than-memorable prince (sorry Richard Madden!), and a predictable plot that didn’t do enough to distinguish itself were a few of the areas that made the live action remake a mildly amusing movie that aspired to be really great, but didn’t quite get there.
The Jungle Book
Overall, I am not the biggest fan of this particular animated Disney movie. I wanted to make this disclaimer upfront. Nonetheless, I must defend its memory and place in Disney’s animated legend from the live version.
- First off, the live voice cast for the animals was a solid bunch, with Bill Murray standing out as Baloo, but it pales in comparison to the original group of voice actors (Phil Harris, et al), who brought The Jungle Book to life in 1967 in incomparable style.
- Secondly, watching Mowgli interact with the various animals in the original version was more believable, because the animated animals were easier to weave into the storyline, unlike weaving together real-life footage with the CGI constructs that were used for the remake. The latter method just didn’t feel as authentic as the former did, in my mind.
- Lastly, several of the updated plot twists in the newer movie, such as Baloo rescuing Mowgli from Kaa, seemed ridiculous by any stretch of the imagination.
Beauty & The Beast
Last but not least, my brief review of the live Beauty & The Beast, with Emma Watson (one of my favorite actresses) and the talented Dan Stevens in the titular roles. The Disney movie masters pulled out all the stops to make this tale as old as time even better than the animated classic. Sadly, the end product ended up falling short in multiple areas, in part because they tried so hard to jampack it with new characters/storylines/songs, only for it to come across as rather forced or in need of “auto-tuning,” as my sister-in-law pointed out to me. These extra scenes and songs did not add enough to the overall story to make it as effortlessly magical as the 1991 animated masterpiece was. The 1991 movie was probably the closest any animated feature-length movie could get at winning an Academy Award for Best Picture, which is a sterling achievement. The 2017 movie just didn’t have enough magic to match up to its predecessor, ultimately. A darn shame indeed, but they tried their level best.
Some final thoughts to leave with you, dear readers: It is very sad to see Disney with so few original ideas at their collective fingertips, outside of their partnership with Pixar, but it is a small subset of the larger Hollywood trend. Sequels of movies that needed no further installments (e.g. Toy Story 4), spin-offs (the all-woman main cast of Ghostbusters, Ocean’s 8), and so forth, are the majority of the movies out there, besides the Marvel and DC movies.
What could possibly be next? Remakes of classic movies that should really be left alone (e.g. Rear Window and True Grit?) No thank you, Hollywood. No thank you, many times over.
Featured image credit: Disney