As the lights dimmed and the film began, a bit of me thought, “Hey, maybe there will be some charm to this live-action adaptation.” I was on the fence with Disney’s newest take on Beauty and the Beast, a childhood-defining film that many, like me, embraced at a young age.
Unfortunately, director Bill Condon (Twilight: Breaking Dawn Pts. 1&2) brought the animated film to life, but couldn’t bring life to its audience.
The film opens with an introduction into the prince-turned-Beast (Dan Stevens). A voiceover guides us through a night of dancing and celebration before the prince’s encounter with a beggar. Instead of inviting the beggar inside to eat and get warm, he turns her away. Not so fast, prince, as the beggar, Agathe, turns out to be the Enchantress (Hattie Morahan) in disguise. She turns him into a beast to prove looks isn’t where real beauty lie.
There’s an initial admiration for the costume design by Jacqueline Durran that lasts for the rest of the film. The popping colors, beautiful dresses, makeup for the men and women — everything pulled together quite nicely in the opening number.
Following the grand opening, Belle (Emma Watson) introduces us to her village, which is busy and full of activity. There is the engaging baker (Dale Branston), jealous trio of women and cute banter between those selling goods.
Now, the expectation for Watson was to be the major A-list name attached to a film that, quite frankly, didn’t need it to gain traction with the public before its release. As a singer, she isn’t very good. Like my girlfriend said, she carried a tune in the introduction just fine and failed to capitalize on what should have been more memorable moments later in the film. I have no problem with Watson as an actress, but in this one? She’s … just bland. Not great, but not terrible, either. Quite the safe choice as Belle, so nothing stuck with me after the credits rolled.
The most memorable performances came way of Gaston (Luke Evans) and LeFou (Josh Gad). Their chemistry on-screen was enjoyable and provided laughs. They were the most lively duo that gave the film its most memorable moment: Gaston’s number in the tavern, which is the only number that connected with me. Everything clicked for these two, but it wasn’t enough to mask the faults that held back Beauty and the Beast.
It goes without saying that you should wipe away previous expectation from the 1991 original. One on hand, you have the cute, zany space directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise worked within. On the other hand, you have a tale a bit darker in tone and playing to more human elements with Condon’s take. Here’s the thing: There’s charm to be found in the former, whereas there’s a void for the latter. Cogsworth (Ian McKellen) and Lumière (Ewan McGregor) struggled to find a warm spot in my heart, for instance, and it’s due in large part to the lifelike representation of a talking clock and candleholder. They worked in the animated feature, but not in this film.
However, through the doom and gloom this review may emit, there’s a bit of good to be discovered. Gad has become somewhat of a gem for filmmakers recently, given his charming humor and down-to-earth acting. The South Florida native isn’t afraid to be funny, serious and dramatic. Many will watch for his widely spoken of gay moment, but there was nothing wrong with the scene. Theaters banning the film for this reason should probably cease to exist.
I enjoyed the VFX and SFX quite a bit, and it might help that I viewed the film in IMAX 3D. In the introduction, there’s a moment we find Belle singing on a hilltop. The green screen is grossly noticeable, but it’s a forgettable smudge after the CGI cleans up nicely throughout the rest of the film. I enjoyed the sounds of the village, the clanking of Chip and Mrs. Potts and the well-done CGI on Beast.
The positives simply drown in Beauty and the Beast‘s two hour runtime, though. There’s a hint of optimism the film throws your direction every so often until the midway point, where it becomes stuck in mud and unable to pick itself up after stumbling.
Although, there will be plenty — I’ve spoken to plenty — who will adore this film, it’ll break a record in March and Disney will be ready to throw the live-action Lion King at us. Too bad I’m more worried about that film after watching Beauty and the Beast.
I was able to attend a screening of ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ thanks to Slyfox. The film runs two hours, nine minutes and is rated PG. The Beast and other elements are a bit scary for children so, yes, parents, accompany your kids! The film releases on March 17, 2017 in North America.