Reed’s Top 10 Live Action Disney Movies.
I have been wanting to do something like this since I started this blog and I’m finally getting around to it! I did a very toned down version of it on my Instagram account (shameless self-plug). If you’re not following my Instagram account then feel free to give it a follow @reeds.reel.rants. With that out of the way, I want to say thank you guys so much for reading and supporting me because it truly means the world to me. Back to the topic on hand, I’d like to also say that while I enjoy these live-action versions of our childhood favorites I’m of the persuasion that doesn’t think that these movies are a real necessity. But I will say that if we keep buying tickets to see these movies that Disney is going to keep cranking them out. There are some I can get on board with because they go deeper into the story line and introduce new songs and characters but I am personally not a huge fan of the scene-by-scene remakes of the original. There are also a few that are so bad that they’re not even included on my list. (Yes, I’m looking at you Tim Burton’s Alice movies) I’m also not an advocate for those people that hate them and think that Disney is ruining the originals. Those classics will always be available and are not going anywhere. With all of that being said, here is my “Top Ten” Disney live-action movies.
10. Maleficent (2014)
I’m just going to say it; Maleficent is bad. I was among the few people that I know that actually saw it in theaters. The CGI is questionable and quite shoddy in some moments of the film. One of the only things that the CGI does justice is Maleficent’s wings. The movie relied on the CGI too much for one movie. The three good fairies look like gremlins, to put it nicely. One of the strong points of the movie is the casting. Angelina Jolie was’t particularly challenged with this role so there are some moments that shine through and some that muddy her performance. Elle Fanning did fine with what she was given. She didn’t stand out in a negative way but she also didn’t draw my attention in a positive way either. The costuming is pretty strong but I will say that whoever chose Brenton Thwaites’ hairstyle did him dirty. I don’t think this movie was necessary and I also don’t like how they try to make us sympathize for one of the most evil villains Disney has produced. It basically maligns the good fairies and the human characters and makes us believe they’re the evil ones. There are moments in the script that make me roll my eyes but overall I’ve seen worse. (Still looking at you Alice in Wonderland (2010)) The last bit I want to touch on is one of the most important parts of a movie: the score. James Newton Howard is a wiz at what he does and it really shows in this movie. The excellent score makes up for the so-so script and CGI.The recent trailers for the sequel make me very excited for the next chapter but I’m still very cautiously optimistic about Maleficent:Mistress of Evil.
9. The Lion King (2019)
I have already reviewed The Lion King on here so I won’t go into too much detail. Feel free to check out my review on here. The Lion King was a truly beautiful film. But it was unfortunately riddled with lots of things that could’ve been done better. Some very iconic moments from the 1994 classic didn’t make the cut for this movie. Just recently, my friends and I had discussed the film and we all came to the conclusion that if Beyonce hadn’t been cast in the movie then the hype wouldn’t have been as intense. I wanted to love this movie but it fell flat. It relied on the nostalgia of the first movie too heavily to really be its own entity.
8. The Jungle Book (2016)
Another Favreau film that was visually stunning, but a bit on the slow side. First off, I’ll admit that The Jungle Book has never been a favorite of mine. I love the animation and the soundtrack but the movie falls a bit by the wayside for me. The filmmakers did a pretty good job with making this one a bit more likable. I just have a few questions. I understand that orangutans are not from India but did they really have to take it so seriously and find an animal to replace King Louie as. Also, why did Kaa have to be so large? A regular-sized python isn’t scary enough? Also, the elephants are some of my favorite parts of the original and I hate that there parts were severely understated. On a different note though, the movie was jam-packed with some talent. Idris Elba, Lupita N’yongo, Ben Kingsley, and Scarlett Johansson to name a few! I thought the movie was wonderfully cast and Neel Sethi, who plays Mowgli, held his own next to such legendary talents. I wasn’t a fan of this movie’s soundtrack because it didn’t translate well onto the live-action characters (which is largely one of my main problems with The Lion King.) So a final thought: This movie is a gorgeously animated piece of work but at times felt like it took itself a little too seriously.
7. Beauty and the Beast (2017)
While I’m a huge Disney fan I also love the Harry Potter series so you could imagine my excitement when I saw the news of Emma Watson being cast as Belle. But then I started questioning Disney’s choice. I’d never once heard Emma Watson sing and to be quite honest, I don’t think we heard her sing in Beauty and the Beast either. The amount of auto tune that was used for the whole cast (Audra McDonald aside because she is the queen of Broadway) was astounding. I feel like it would’ve been just as easy to cast a singer as Belle than go and auto tune Emma Watson’s every word. Singing aside, I thought Emma Watson did a decent job as Belle. She didn’t blow me away but I also wasn’t upset with her performance as an actress. The costuming and set design, for me, was brilliantly done. I didn’t love her gold ballgown but her wedding dress was stunning. The ensemble cast did a fairly good job. The standouts for me were Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, Emma Thompson’s Mrs. Potts (sans the singing), and Audra McDonald’s Madame de Garderobe. The casting that really fell flat for me was Luke Evans as Gaston. He didn’t bring the gruffness that is Gaston to the role. On the subject of music, I think the only song that really improved with the live-action was “Gaston.” The way they used the set was refreshing. I loved the new additions for the movie “Days in the Sun” and “Evermore.” I also loved that they kept most of the original score because it really is one of the most beautiful scores from Disney (Thank you, Alan Menken.) I liked 2017’s Beauty and the Beast but the original will always be my favorite.
6. Dumbo (2019)
I am constantly shocked when I hear friends and others say that they didn’t like Dumbo. Tim Burton is known for his wacky, dark creations which initially had me scared for his retelling of the sweet classic Dumbo. I was surprisingly delighted with his version. Of course like any other it’s not without its faults but I think overall it was a sweet movie. The script was pretty weak. It had a number of moments that could’ve been improved upon. I don’t want to say much because I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone who might not have seen it. The casting was okay. I really liked Eva Green and Collin Farrell in their roles. I also think Nico Parker is going to be a real force in Hollywood, following in her mother Thandie Newton’s footsteps. Dumbo was my most anticipated Disney movie of 2019 and I was not let down. I can’t say I cried during the movie but it was still very touching. The sets in the movie were just as beautiful as those in Beauty and the Beast. One thing did not let me down, Dumbo was one of the most precious CGI characters I’ve ever seen and I was pleasantly surprised with the ending. The subtle message of characters being kept in captivity in circuses was refreshing as well. If you haven’t watched this movie then please do yourself a favor and do so ASAP.
5. Aladdin (2019)
I think everyone went into Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin thinking it was going to be, for lack of better words, a dumpster fire. I was a bit scared myself but when I got my first glimpses of Mena Massoud as Aladdin and Naomi Scott as Jasmine I was sold. Massoud seriously could not have better embodied Aladdin’s character. I’ve seen the movie three times and I’m always in awe of how much he truly seems to love what he’s doing and who he’s playing. Plus he’s a literal carbon copy of Aladdin from the 1992 classic. Naomi Scott exudes the grace and poise that IS Jasmine as well as making Jasmine her own. I especially love the idea of her being Sultan in the end. I’ll also say that I think Will Smith held his own and made the part of Genie his. I’m sorry, I know for some people that part should never be played by anyone other than Robin Williams but we have to give credit where credit is due. I especially love his rendition of “Prince Ali.” The weakest part of the movie for me was Jafar. They really let me down with the casting for that part. Jafar is easily one of the creepiest villains out there and Marwan Kenzari did a terrible job portraying him. I’m personally really happy that Iago’s role was toned down. But I’ll also say that he was beautifully created, as well as Rajah and Abu. I don’t understand why it’s so much longer than the original (which is the case for all of the recent Disney remakes, but I digress.) But the set design (who also designs the sets for HBO’s Game of Thrones) are gorgeous and call back to the original. The costuming, for me, is some of the best costuming I’ve seen this year. I know we get several different outfit changes from the couple in the original but Jasmine’s costumes for this movie are breathtaking! Seriously all of the color is drool-worthy. Finally. I’ll touch on the soundtrack just by saying that it’s everything I expected and needed. Naomi Scott is a powerhouse and Pacek and Paul’s new song “Speechless” is the the song Jasmine needed all along. Go run to the theater and catch Aladdin soon before it leaves theaters!
4. 102 Dalmatians (2000)
I bet you really didn’t think I was going to include one of these, did you? It’s an oldie, but definitely a quality movie. I won’t say much because it’s been around a while and everyone should have seen it by now. Glenn Close gave us a SOLID performance as Cruella de Vil. I think it’s her performance as Cruella that really solidified Cruella as my all time favorite Disney villain. The acting isn’t great but I love the plot. Plus a movie with an ending where the villain gets baked into a cake before being taken into custody is pretty fun if you ask me. I’d also like to point out that the movie was nominated for an Academy Award for Costuming and it’s very clear why when you see Cruella de Vil’s many outfits.
3. Christopher Robin (2018)
My heart melted when I first saw the trailer for this one. Winnie the Pooh was one of my childhood favorites so naturally I fell in love with this movie. I did not have a dry eye throughout the whole movie. The filmmakers really did quite a fantastic job at bringing Pooh and his friends to life. And I think they really did them justice. I know the movie was not everyone’s cup of tea. But I personally loved every minute of it. It has its share of timing issues but the end product is as sweet as honey. I think Ewan McGregor did an outstanding job playing Christopher Robin. The voices of Pooh and his friends were spot-on. Come on, is there anymore perfect casting as Brad Garrett as Eeyore? The answer is yes because Jim Cummings does a terrific job of voicing Winnie the Pooh. I personally couldn’t tell the difference between Cummings and the original voice of Pooh, Sterling Holloway. There are some great moments of cinematography. I loved the song at the ending that was written by Disney Legend Richard M. Sherman. So, if you haven’t seen this one then go to Netflix and watch it now! I highly recommend it!
2. Pete’s Dragon (2016)
Okay. I think I’m in the minority here when I rank Pete’s Dragon so high on my list but I personally loved this movie so much. I can honestly say that the number of times I cried in Christopher Robin multiplied by a thousand is the number of times I cried in Pete’s Dragon. Not literally. But I definitely cried more during this movie than I ever do in any movie. It is such a touching story. Even the original movie from 1977 has moved me to tears on multiple occasions. I just think both the original and this live-action are so underrated. You seriously can’t ask for a better cast. Bryce Dallas Howard gives one of my favorite performances she’s ever done and Robert Redford is so endearing that I forget sometimes that endearing is not usually a quality in a role he usually plays. Earlier I commented about Dumbo being one of the cutest CGI characters I’ve ever seen.. well Elliot is THE cutest. Elliot is so cute in the original that I was scared to see what they’d do to him but man I was impressed. Everything that the original did this one did ten times better. I would say I definitely missed a couple of the songs that were used in the original but this movie didn’t need them. I can’t say it enough: Go watch Pete’s Dragon.
1. Cinderella (2015)
This was a no-brainer for me. Cinderella will forever reign supreme as number one on my list for a lot of reasons. I’ll try to make it short. First, the casting was perfect. Lily James is effervescent and so exudes every trait that encapsulates the role of Cinderella. Richard Madden does a great job with helping Prince Charming become a little less one-dimensional. Helena Bonham Carter was brilliantly cast Fairy Godmother. She’s just the right amount of zany and endearing. Last but most definitely not least Cate Blanchett deserved every bit of that role as Ella’s wicked stepmother. I live for her in roles like this one. The message of courage and kindness is always a message we could use more of. The costuming department deserved all kinds of awards. I loved every piece of clothing that every character wore. It goes without question though that Cinderella’s blue ball gown is one the most, if not the most, stunning pieces of wardrobe I have ever seen. I think the same could be said of her lovely wedding dress as well. Just when you think that oh so enchanting makeover scene from rags to her gown couldn’t get better, it does. And it does it SO well. The score is gorgeous and even the unused songs that are on the soundtrack are worth a listen! If you haven’t seen this one, then I implore you to watch it because you’ll fall in love with the characters of Cinderella even more than before.
If you’ve made it this far then I wanna say thank you for sticking with me and my rambling! I hope to do some more of these soon! So stay tuned! ❤️