Movie Review: Black Beauty
Were Disney+ subscribers screeching and clamouring for a Black Beauty remake? Was that really the top of their agenda? Between the hate mail and glitter bombs a few steadfast fans of sad horse movies were making their voices heard, and the Kate Winslet-led Black Beauty is the result. Finally! Only the fourteenth remake of the Anna Sewell-penned novel and, no matter how great her written prose and work is, nothing could convince me to read the book after storming my way through this latest adaptation. With mediocrity in its heart and clunky writing in its mouth, Black Beauty is yet another oddity that we must come to expect as a by-product of streaming monopolies.
Gather round, settle in and saddle up, because Black Beauty is here to take you on a mediocre journey. Ashley Avis is the poor soul strapped to the directing chair. With Winslet as the titular character, she and Mackenzie Foy have no time for horsing around as they forge a bond together, not because they have to, but because the narrative implores them to do so. A series of comatose sentiments and snooze-inducing scenery build up to the inevitably bland blowout Black Beauty is known for. Disney are here for the money, and nothing more, its predictable and safe filmmaking style is as bleak and boring and obnoxious as ever, but it is almost impossible to criticise.
To expect anything more than the usual safety net approach is to be foolish and ambitious. My worry here is not for the quality of filmmaking, but of the content for audiences who, in ten years or so, will embrace this nonsense with a welcome nostalgia. What is there within here that is worth enduring? Nothing. Sloppy, bland visuals that bring about as much convincing artistry as a finger painting or using a toy kitchen to boil a lobster. The ingredients and components are there, but putting them together succinctly or interestingly is a whole other issue. Avis and company can do nothing with what they have been given, as much the fault of Disney for not giving them much to work with as it is the cast and crew’s fault for signing onto this black hole of creativity.
Opening with the line “A wise horse once told me…” is, no matter the intent, a hilariously poor way to express the emotion your leading character has for these four-legged beasts. Winslet, credit to her, has the voice for these expressionless Disney fads. The imitation of interest a stark draw for such a performer, and she lays on this mocking lack of attentiveness extremely thickly indeed. Black Beauty is just an elongated advert for the Lloyds bank, their black horses absent from our screens for nigh on a decade now. Or should that be neigh? No.