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The Lookout | April 12, 2021

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Review: ‘Beauty’ a redundant remake

Review: ‘Beauty’ a redundant remake
  • On December 8, 2020

One Star out of Five

By Joanna MacGown
Freelance Writer

As I watched “the movie “Black Beauty” on Disney+, I continually came back to a simple question: Why?

Does this movie serve any purpose besides giving Disney+ one more feature-length movie to fill its catalogue? No, no it does not. Everything it does has already been done better in other films.

In this telling, Beauty is a mustang, and also female. In one of the few semi-clever changes to the story, young Joe has become Jo (Mackenzie Foy), so that both horse and rider are now female.

Kate Winslet, as the voice of Beauty, is the only recognizable name in the film. And while her performance is fine, I couldn’t really bring myself to appreciate her presence because she’s constantly narrating, even when the visuals should really be able to speak for themselves, lines like “I was angry.”  I doubt 10 seconds went by without any narration/dialogue to fill space.

While the idea of a modern retelling of the story of “Black Beauty” isn’t an inherently awful one, every modern retelling of a classic story needs to take modern situations and attitudes into account. That is particularly pressing for a story that was originally written to expose the cruelty of certain practices toward horses in Victorian England.

While the idea of an animal narrating its own life story has since become a staple of animal narratives, back then it was a novel device meant to force people to recognize that animals have feelings, too.

This movie fails at being a horse story because it clearly doesn’t understand horses, or horse people, for that matter.

I was often distracted by little things it got wrong about the animal. It’s only expected for stories of this genre to humanize the animal to some extent, but they still need to make some allowance for animal instinct. Otherwise, why make the story about an animal to begin with? I’ve seen cartoon horses that act more like horses than this Beauty.

So what you’re left with is the plot of the original story. But thanks largely to the change in setting, the horse no longer acts like a horse, and the people don’t seem to act like humans.

The only exception (to the characterization or the plot retread) is a brief interlude when the horse is sold to a mountain rescue rider – I would have watched a whole movie about that, but sadly it’s over and done in about 10 minutes.

Horses are no longer beasts of burden in this age. They are luxuries, and you don’t have people who hate horses forced to interact with them.

The only people I could potentially see getting anything out of this is little girls who like horses but don’t actually know a ton about them, but there are still so many better horse movies they could be watching instead.