Beauty and the Beast Review

One of Disney’s most treasured animated musicals of the ’90s and perhaps its most critically acclaimed, “Beauty and the Beast” was understandably high in the queue for in the studio’s recent spree of live-action remakes. Led by the popular and talented Emma Watson as Belle and under the veteran guidance of director Bill Condon (“Dreamgirls,” “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn”), the film had a clear blueprint for success, which it follows — if a little too precisely.

The film captures the spirit and aesthetics of the 1991 classic, but in ways that are on the nose. The costumes and even some of the choreography (and not just the dancing) feel lifted from the original and plopped into three dimensions. Undoubtedly there’s something thrilling about seeing a beloved cartoon recreated in photorealistic detail, but that’s where the entertainment — specifically the novelty — ends with “Beauty and the Beast.”

All the components honor the “source material,” avoiding any obvious areas of disappointment. Watson brings all her charms and a perfectly pleasant voice to Belle, Dan Stevens is fearsome, handsome and possesses just the right pinch of humor as the Beast and Gaston couldn’t have been better cast than Luke Evans — and that’s leaving out the delightfulness of Ewan McGregor (Lumiere), Ian McKellen (Cogsworth), Josh Gad (LeFou), Emma Thompson (Mrs. Potts) and even Kevin Kline (Maurice). These voices and faces fill a production design that nails the essence of the animated film. If you were to imagine each cell come to life, it would look like this movie.

The question “Beauty and the Beast” raises is whether the act of re-creation is enough to justify the entire production. Box office receipts say yes, that audiences are content to simply re-experience the magic of a familiar story in a different medium, but there’s something uninspired about this “Beauty” and it puts every aspect of the movie in charge of covering up the stink of commerciality.

At over two hours long, there’s an extra 40 minutes of material here compared to the original, a huge chunk of time that in theory should provide an expanded “Beauty and the Beast” experience. That time goes toward a couple new songs and more developed backstories for Belle and others in an attempt to fill in some of the hollow stereotypes that needless to say —bless Disney’s heart — make the 1991 film culturally dated.

Attempts to expand Belle’s peculiarity and bookishness definitely cast her as a 21st century-appropriate heroine as opposed to a 20th century “princess.” This Belle is an inventor, she’s chastised for teaching a young girl to read and she refuses to be a damsel in distress. These personality enhancements are no surprise for a character played by Watson, which suggests they might have been the work of screenwriter Stephen Chbosky, who Watson brought in from “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” Of all the new components Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos (“The Huntsman: Winter’s War”) bring to Linda Woolverton’s original script, the way they develop Belle is the most effective and value-adding.

Generally, however, whether it’s LeFou’s vague sexuality or that Belle was born in Paris, none of the new script material or even brand new Alan Menken songs bolster the tentpoles of this story — its magic and its emotional story of love conquering all. That satisfying feeling when all is righted in the end — the pinnacle of emotion that made the original a Disney classic — doesn’t reach the same heights in this version. Or, it does, but without evoking that same feeling with renewed passion.

Disney doesn’t need much of an excuse to keep churning out these live-action redos, but they will need to find some new creative energy in order to entice more than ’90s-pining nostalgists to watch these films instead of revisiting the old ones.


2.5/5 Stars


Beauty and the Beast
Directed by Bill Condon
Written by Stephen Chbosky, Evan Spiliotopoulos
Starring: Emma Watson, Luke Evans, Dan Stevens, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline


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