A Musician’s Look at Beauty and the Beast

[A special review from Becka deHaan, Walter's daughter]

Like Vic, my favourite Disney animated film is the original 1991 animated version of Beauty and the Beast, so a comparison of the new remake to the original is unavoidable.

Belle looks up at the Beast

My first response to the remake is that I absolutely detest all that autotune usage, particularly on Emma Watson's voice. There are other voices on which I suspect it as well, but, unlike with Belle, those cases are not distracting (there are varying degrees to which auto-tuning can be applied). I couldn't really even detect Watson’s raw talent at all, except where vibrato was employed, and such was sparse indeed. My advice to filmmakers: Either dub a singer in there (as with Anastasia, Princess Jasmine, etc.) or cast someone who can both act and sing up to par. Or, as Vic says in his review, live with the substandard vocals (I hadn't been impressed with Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables, but now I am, because at least they didn't auto-tune her voice). Anyway, as a result of the auto-tuning, Belle's singing in the remake was a sadly-far cry from Paige O'Hara's warmth in the 1991 animated version. I found myself singing it like Paige, right out loud, on my way home from the theatre, to put the proper version back into my head.

As for the Beast, I found Dan Stevens' slight lack in sung vocal power surprising, given how well he pulled off the role in general.

Some songs in the remake were actually transposed altogether to different keys from the original and some were not, and that is fine. However, there was a distinct and notable increase in modulations and key-changes within songs, such that it almost made me dizzy. Whether these modulations and key-changes were added as a form of what I'll call audio-cinematography, or whether they were trying to work with the talent they had (It's hard for me to imagine Watson nailing her line as she walks into the book shop, originally peeking on high E-flats here emphasized: "There must be more than this provincial life,” so in the remake the piece modulated so that those high notes were a full perfect fifth lower for Watson.), or both, I found it over the top, and I wished they could have stayed or come back "home," if you will (finishing in the same key as starting), more often. Also not sure what they were trying to accomplish with the timing of the dinner version of the title song, the accompaniment sometimes in 3/4 time as if to construct a more-romantic waltz, with the melody remaining either in 4/4 or just plain being sung freestyle (only a single hearing has not enlightened me as to which one). Whichever it is, it didn't do it for me.

Finally, I'm really not a fan of the remake's twist on the ending, namely having the last petal fall, everyone turn into non-living castle-items, Agathe coming onto the scene to hear Belle saying right out loud, "I love you!" and having the rose re-grow and the spell broken. How could that happen? It was too late. Theologically, grace exists, yes, but not to the violation of justice. It seems like a cop-out, nothing short of a violation of the terms of the spell itself. I don't see anything wrong, or too-predictable, with "I love you," being sobbed (in my opinion, O'Hara providing much-more-convincing sobs than Watson) as a whisper mere split-seconds before the last petal falls. Not to mention that the remake doesn't time that with the score for that part. They have that score--easily my favourite portion of the incidental score--left without cry or dialogue at all. To me, that section of the original score, with its long, drawn-out, warm, suspended string chords modulating downward as the sadness increases, synchronized with O'Hara's sobs containing the words, "No! Please. PLEASE... Please don't leave me..." and the still-sobbed, weary whisper, "I love you,," is all too precious to be tampered with. They did somewhat redeem themselves in the remake by having Belle's crying meet the sudden swift thirds in the strings' mid-range that signify the beginning of the transformation. But then they have the pre-kiss meeting silent! A little hard for the blind viewer, who adores the original, to swallow. What happened to: "Belle! it's me!” "It is you!" THEN they kiss.

Overall, the remake gets my thumbs--or mug--up too, but it certainly won't replace the original; I'm glad I have the dvd - we literally wore out the vhs tape!


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