Outlook: Cautiously optimistic
“Tale as old as time,” Ariana Grande sings in Beauty and the Beast‘s final trailer. Yes, it is a tale as old as 1991. Beauty and the Beast has been around my whole life, so, to me, that famous lyric rings true as I’m sure it will for most of Beauty and the Beast‘s target audience.
With its series of live-action remakes that include Alice in Wonderland (2010), Maleficent (2014), Cinderella (2015), The Jungle Book (2016), and Pete’s Dragon (2016), some might think Disney has struck upon a golden formula. However, such people might be looking back upon these movies with rose-colored glasses thanks to the astounding success of The Jungle Book because it wasn’t until that movie that Disney got things right.
In 2010, Disney started strong at the box-office with its first two remakes Alice and Maleficent. They both grossed $320M and $190M, respectively. However, critics shunned the films, assigning them the mediocre scores of 52% and 50%. In Disney’s more recent live-action attempts, Cinderella and Pete’s Dragon, the studio finally won over critics, enjoying scores of 83% and 86% on RottenTomatoes.com, respectively, but neither came close to the $360+ million box office success of Jungle Book nor the lesser successes of Alice and Maleficent. Jungle remedied these imbalances by both winning over critics (95% on RottenTomatoes.com) and bringing in its largest box-office performance in the live-action remake sector, which set up the studio for a record breaking year.
Now all eyes are on this movie, Beauty and the Beast. Can it continue Disney’s hot streak and recreate Jungle‘s balancing-act of critical/box-office success? Can it lead Disney on to another record breaking year with a pipeline full of possible hits that include: Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Cars 3, Thor: Ragnarok, Coco, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Like The Jungle Book, this movie’s source material is incredibly well-known by audiences. Something I didn’t know till just now, Beauty was more than just a critical darling, it snagged an Oscar nomination for Best Picture in 1992. Laughably, Beauty‘s final trailer openly reveals the first half of the movie’s plot, in chronological order. Disney’s lack of effort to conceal the plot signals that it also realizes how familiar its target audience is with the original film. I believe this familiarity along with its star-studded cast (I’m eager to see Ewan McGregor as Lumiere) will generate large opening weekend number’s even if critics deride the movie.
However, I firmly believe that in today’s age of RottenTomatoes dominance, a movie cannot become a blockbuster without winning over critics. On this point, I’m a little nervous. Bill Condon is directing it and his biggest films up to this point have been Dreamgirls and Mr. Holmes. While I enjoyed the latter, it wasn’t a knock-your-socks-off type of good. It was just a good flick. Also, I must mention that in 2014 Condon directed the Benedict Cumberbatch bomb, The Fifth Estate. While Condon is a veteran director, he lacks the pedigree and success of past live-action directors (e. g. Cinderella‘s Kenneth Branagh or The Jungle Book‘s Jon Favreau) and the fact that he directed that garbage, The Fifth Estate, makes me uneasy.
With all this on my mind, I rewatched this final trailer for the third time and hearing “Tale as old as time” still pulled at my heartstrings. Let’s hope this movie is more than just a waltz down memory lane to revisit Disney’s golden-era.
By Hagood Grantham