Review by Andrew Overfield
Edited by Alyx Jones
Director: Bill Condon
Composer: Alan Menken
Sound Designer(s): Sean Garnhart, Stephen P. Robinson, Warren Shaw
Reviewed at: VUE Cinema, The Light
It goes without saying that Disney have given us some powerful and emotional masterpieces with their animated classics. Journeys beyond the imagination and into the fantasy, are what have collected in the form of VHS, DVDs and Blu-Rays under the TVs of millions of households around the world. It goes without saying that you know exactly what to expect in terms of story, sprinkled with heroes, villains and the urge to spontaneously burst into songs about your daily activities, are pretty much the go-to formula for our family-friendly films. Even more so when you’re watching essentially a live remake of one of said classics.
It’s the music that gets me: memorable themes, clever chord structures accompanied by (sometimes) brilliantly written lyrics, I completely understand why Disney have had so many hits.
I left the cinema less than an hour ago and this trip down nostalgia lane certainly won’t leave me for quite a while. Let’s have a look at my thoughts on the film’s audio and then I’ll round off with my conclusion.
Right off the bat we are welcomed with open arms with Alan Menken’s beautiful piano melody as we are once again greeted with a similar narration very similar to the 1991 original. This opening scene lays out the film’s stall and more than sets expectations of the things to unfold. The film is a little more thorough in describing the events, which led to our hairy lover and his servants becoming what they are. A slightly awkward renaissance ballroom scene introducing the enchantress cleverly weaves the original theme with French, period-esque number which towards the end of the scene, seems to sit much better than at the beginning. It’s interesting to see the harpsichord (and accompanying character) play such a vital part in this scene and the rest of the film thereafter.
The film is littered with throwback motifs, taking you back to your childhood. Little teasers of the popular themes here and there, don’t saturate the impact of when you finally hear their full flourish.
I did notice slightly in the beginning of the film, the music was slightly higher in the mix which somewhat drowned out the vocals in the first act, however this seemed to clear up towards the end. Mostly when Emma Watson was soloing in the opening scenes. It wasn’t too much of a bug bear but noticeable enough to write a pointer.
I can imagine Menken would have had quite the hard time with this score. Having to replicate a 26 year old score without straying too much from the original whilst keeping a fresh and modern approach. More notably the extended use of the harpsichord, that was a welcome touch.
I also had a very Danny Elfman moment when Belle is racing away form the castle the first time. Hopefully you’ll notice it too and I’m not just out of my mind.
The production is clear and you can definitely notice a more polished recreation to the score. Woodwinds are much clearer and the brass have a powerful presence. I wont lie, I’m going to be very biased but I loved every second of it. It’s a complete trip down memory lane without having too much of a “try-hard” approach. It was like grabbing an old album from your favourite artists on “re-mastered” edition and I’m not complaining about that whatsoever.
I have already mentioned in the music section that I felt the vocals were a little low in the mix in the first act, so I won’t dwell on this anymore. However remaining on the sbject of dialogue, whilst still in the first act, I felt like a lot of the lines were delivered somewhat robotically and as if we were watching a live play rather than a seamless film.
Once Belle had more emotion towards the end of the film, I encountered a more natural feel from her delivery.
Luke Evans’ delivery of Gaston was exactly like you’d expect. I would have appreciated a more brash, bolder approach to the character, however the delivery seemed more comic relief than the ignorantly bully-ish dialogue in the animated original. The spattering of well-known voices such as Ian McKellen, Ewan Mcgregor and Emma Thompson added a great touch of familiarity to a slightly wooden delivery from our main cast. Maybe this is the feeling that Bill Condon was aiming for, as we are deep into an old-fashioned time? I’m unsure.
I also noticed as some points the villagers in the group singing sections were slightly out of sync to the music. As if the dubbing was only ever-so slightly off. However, similar to the other concerns I’ve had, this seemed to correct itself further into the narrative.
I thoroughly enjoyed my experience with this film. It ticked all the right boxes and as other critics have also agreed upon, it’s very much a live-action, carbon-copy of the 1991 classic. This is not necessarily a negative point. You know exactly what you’re getting. Some lines changed form the original script weren’t up my street, and the additional songs I could take or leave. I don’t feel they added much more in terms of depth to the piece.
That being said, as an overall package, Beauty and the Beast is an enjoyable watch. The CGI, art and make-up department deserve huge praise for their work and Menken, once again has proven just why he was perfect for the job.
In the meantime, as a title shameless self promotion, you can also hear my interpretation of what I thought the trailer music would sound like when I initially heard about the release of this film here:
Until next time…
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The Sound Architect