I don’t know about you, but I think it’s kind of crazy that this year alone will see the release of five live-action remakes of classic Disney characters, worlds and stories. Last weekend saw the release of the second one, Aladdin, which has been well received by audiences despite mixed reviews from critics.
Between Alladin, March’s Dumbo remake, the upcoming Lion King remake, a Maleficent sequel in October and the launch of a Lady and The Tramp CG-enhanced dog love story on Disney+ we are just swimming in it. And it makes sense. These remakes typically score well at the box office even when held up against the originals, which are regarded as some of the most beloved films of all time.
What we know for sure is that Walt Disney Pictures is probably committed to producing a live-action remake of nearly every title in its vast library of animation. And now let’s reflect on how these remakes have fared so far. I’m no big fan of review aggregator scores, but I’ve averaged the ratings from Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic to whip out these numbers. Here’re the 8 top Disney live-action remakes.
101 Dalmatians – Critic Average: 44
Easily the best thing about this film is Glenn Close’s delightful performance as the joyfully wicked Cruella De Vil. The worst thing is that it’s a pretty straightforward retelling of the original animated film, which was always forgettable and a bit silly. The New York Times’ Elvis Mitchell wrote, “Glenn Close succeeds in breathing archly theatrical life into the irresistably monstrous Cruella de Vil. Otherwise, this remake goes to the dogs too often.”
Dumbo – Critic Average: 49
While it scored major buzz when the first trailer was released, the response to the film from audiences was much more muted. While professional eccentric Tim Burton was on hand to direct, Dumbo lacked some of his more intriguing quirks. Critics felt the film was joyless and depressing. The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern wrote, “[The film] is one ponderous pachyderm, a live-action remake of the 1941 animated classic with a grim tone and a dead soul.”
Alice in Wonderland – Critic Average: 52
This take on the Wonderland material scored real big at the till and is probably how Tim Burton got the gig to take on Dumbo years later. A teenage Alice returns to the fantasy world she visited as a child and reunites with old friends to take down the Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter). The film scored real big at the till but critics felt the movie lacked an engaging story to support its visuals. John DeVore of Premiere called it, “A charmless, vandalized version of a classic.”
Maleficent – Critic Average: 55
This revisionist take on the story of Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of the villainous fairy Maleficent related the origins of her desire for revenge against the human kingdom. Critics were largely captivated by the performance of Angelina Jolie as the title character, but were divided over whether her performance elevated the movie or overshadowed it. The upcoming sequel, Mistress of Evil, hopes to present a complex partnership between Maleficent and the soon-to-be Queen Aurora.
Christopher Robin – Critic Average: 66
Effectively Hook but for the Winnie the Pooh milieu, this movie sees a perennially sad adult Christopher Robin reconnect with his childhood friends. Christopher Robin was not nearly a hit at the box office as other remakes, but critics liked it well enough, but some considered it trite. Stephanie Zacharek of TIME Magazine wrote, “It’s doubtful the movie would work at all if not for McGregor: He turns Christopher’s anxiety into a haunting presence [but] is also capable of expressing unalloyed delight.”
Beauty and the Beast – Critic Average: 68
That Beauty and the Beast ranks so highly on this list, despite such a middle critic average is a damning indicator of the mixed results of these live-action remakes. While critics were mostly positive about the film from a technical standpoint, audiences felt that neither Emma Watson or a CG fur-enhanced Dan Stevens could capture the emotional resonance of the original, not when the very script served to undermine the material’s strengths.
Cinderella – Critic Average: 76
I honestly forgot this remake existed, but the 2015 remake of the Cinderella story was a critical and commercial success. Under the direction of Kenneth Branagh, famous for his meticulous adaptation of Shakespearean classics, the film adds a bit more substance to the romance between Ella and prince Kit. The Guardian’s Guy Lodge wrote, “It might have been nice to see [thew film] follow Frozen‘s progressive, quasi-feminist lead, the film’s naff, preserved-in-amber romanticism is its very charm.”
Jungle Book – Critic Average: 86
Directed by Jon Favreau, the creative mind that brought us Iron Man and the upcoming The Mandalorian series for Disney Plus, Jungle Book relies heavily on CG animals to tell its story. It’s “a visual marvel that cuts a direct path to the heart,” wrote Peter Travers of Rolling Stone. The film’s most crucial success is the performance of Neel Sethi as Mowgli, the man-cub, who is forced to abandon his home after being threatened by the tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba).
What are your thoughts on these movies? Tell us below!