Film Review: Beauty and the Beast (2017) Is Solid, But No Mousterpiece
To level with you, I was not looking forward to this adaption. Be it the skeptic in me, but I was uncertain about a live-action Beauty and the Beast from certain casting decisions to a second-rate director. It’s impossible to capture the joy and wonder that the original animated film brought us – which seems to be a recurring theme in live-action Disney remakes, a la Cinderella and The Jungle Book (hopefully The Lion King breaks the curse). Luckily, this remake somewhat works, even if it’s not as charming as the original. While it fundamentally emulates the original in nearly every way, Bill Condon’s Beauty and the Beast still manages to be a compelling, albeit safe remake.
You know the story – Belle (Emma Watson), the smartest and most beautiful girl in the village, wants to explore the world and leave the confines of her home. When her Father (Kevin Kline) is kidnapped by a Beast (Dan Stevens), Belle exchanges his imprisonment for hers – and she finds herself trapped inside a magic castle filled with a horrendous beast and talking furniture.
First off, to expel agitation, pitchforks and torches: Emma Watson is a solid Belle. She’s charming and beautiful, with a strong likeness to the original animated character. Second, Luke Evans carries this movie as the archetypal sleazeball, Gaston. In fact, Evans is arguably the centerpiece of the film – a perfect blend of charisma and disgust with a fierce screen presence. Furthermore, Josh Gad is an appropriate choice for LeFou – compassionate, benevolent and witty in his mannerisms. Lastly, the voice cast is stacked with (*deep breath*) Ewan McGregor as Lumière, Stanley Tucci as Maestro Cadenza, Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts, Audra McDonald as Madame de Garderobe, Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Plumette and Nathan Mack as Chip.
What Chris Columbus is to Rent, Bill Condon is to Beauty and the Beast. There’s nothing inherently wrong with Condon’s direction – it’s just so excessively paint-by-numbers for my taste. Certain scenes fell out of place, transitions felt unorthodox, and the new music felt lifeless. Fortunately, the digital effects from the folks at Digital Domain and Weta Digital do an exceptional job making these props come alive. Whatever you may think of the film, you will not be able to deny that Be Our Guest was one of the most visually remarkable CGI feats ever.
Look, 99% of you Nerds (or Disnerds) have already made up your mind regarding seeing this film or not. As a critic, my job is to let you know what you’re in for and offer my personal thoughts. Beyond that, you’re on your own. I see Beauty and the Beast being a divisive film among Disnerds. The countdown to The Lion King begins… now!