Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Movie Review: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (2017) Starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens


Director: Bill Condon
Genre: Family, Fantasy, Musical
Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Audra McDonald, Stanley Tucci, Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Runtime: 129 min
Rating: PG for some action violence, peril and frightening images
Purchasing Links: DVD, Blu-ray

Read the review after the jump.


Review by Popa Razvan

I wanted to hate Bill Condon's "Beauty and the Beast" remake, I really did. It represents everything I hate about Hollywood and the greedy studio system that keeps churning out soulless remakes and sequels. The idea of Disney taking every movie in its animated portfolio and turning them into live-action movies is pretty ridiculous and an obvious scheme to make lot of money without having to rely on original ideas. Instead of investing in brand new stories, they're simply wasting time and money mimicking their past hits. "Jungle Book" was decent and managed to bring a few new twists to the original material, but Kenneth Branagh's "Cinderella" was, for me at least, a disappointment because it failed to justify its existence. In the end though, the updated "Beauty and the Beast" won me over, but still suffers from those same pesky remake issues.

Beauty and the Beast 2017 Movie Image 1

The story is probably familiar to many of you reading this. A French prince (Dan Stevens) with some serious issues is cursed by an enchantress who turns him into a monstrous beast and his servants into household objects. They can all turn back to their former selves if the prince learns to love and finds someone to love him back. She also gives him a magic rose, which acts as a sort of timer. When all of the petals fall off, the transformation becomes permanent. Belle (Emma Watson), a strong-willed woman from a local village finds herself a prisoner of the prince and eventually leads him on the path to love and redemption.

You probably already know all of these plot points and more than what I laid down here. The film pretty much follows the original's plot closely, with few detours that don't add much except to extend the running time unnecessarily. Still, Condon has enough flair to assemble all the elements nicely and his previous experience with the musical "Dreamgirls" must have proven useful here.

Beauty and the Beast 2017 Movie Image 2

The sets and costumes are gorgeous, as are the visual effects. However, calling it "live-action" is a little too much since most of the animation has a cartoonish look that doesn't really differentiate it in any significant way from the animated original. The Beast in particular has some unnatural movements. Although motion capture is meant to help give the animation a natural dynamic, CGI still feels like CGI. Perhaps the filmmakers were worried that a much too realistic Beast would frighten the children, but I would have preferred something that justified the "live-action" treatment and fit in a little better alongside the "real" Belle. And that face was distracting in the worst way. Still, Dan Stevens is a great actor and does a wonderful job building his character with just his voice and the complicated use of motion and facial capture. He brings both strength and vulnerability to the cursed prince and can also carry a tune, even if his efforts are mostly concealed behind a digitally-altered monster voice.

Beauty and the Beast 2017 Movie Image 5

I wasn't convinced by the casting of Emma Watson as Belle. She looks the part and exudes the intelligence and strong will required for the character, yet also feels uncomfortable in the musical environment, and her singing leaves a lot to be desired. Whenever she bursts into song it sounds flat, and I could swear they autotuned her voice. It sounds mechanical whenever she tries to sustain notes. And her performance lacks the strong emotions required to sell us on the fairy tale romance. I understand that Disney thought it would be a great deal to cast the girl from "Harry Potter", because she's popular with the young crowd they were trying to sell the movie to, but I think they should have tried harder when casting Belle.

The rest of the cast is fine, though, and Luke Evans as Gaston and Josh Gad as his sidekick LeFou steal the show. The gay angle everyone's been talking about regarding LeFou is so subtle it's almost not even there. I think all the scandal caused by Condon's interview was just a publicity stunt, because whatever they tried to imply within the film is so weak it doesn't really matter. It's just another half-measure that completely characterizes these remakes. Studios don't like to take big risks with their beloved franchises.

The prince's servants are efficiently voiced by Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Audra McDonald, Stanley Tucci and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, but their live-action selves are annoyingly campy. Thank God they don't appear in the flesh for very long. As for their singing, well, they'll never be as great as Angela Lansbury or Jerry Orbach, but they get the job done with plenty of enthusiasm to make us forgive the occasional missteps. The only obvious exception is Audra McDonald as Madame Garderobe, who has stage musical experience, and you can definitely hear it.

Beauty and the Beast 2017 Movie Image 3

The music is back in fine shape with Alan Menken returning to adapt the original's score and songs. He also wrote three new songs, "Days in the Sun", "How Does a Moment Last Forever" and "Evermore". While the new material is far from awards-worthy, it is definitely hummable. The songs from the original are carried well by most of the cast, even if some fall a bit short of their predecessors' greatness. The film's main theme song, which won an Oscar in 1992, makes a powerful impact within the film, but loses its magic in the underwhelming pop version performed by Ariana Grande and John Legend. The two artists are undeniably talented, but a bad fit for this duo, and the orchestration is just plain awful. Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson still own this song.

Beauty and the Beast 2017 Movie Image 4

All in all, it's not a bad movie, but I still maintain that these live-action remakes are a waste of time. I will concede, however, that it is pretty imaginative and polished enough to make you lose yourself in the magic of a classic tale. It doesn't take any risks and that remains a problem with these remakes. But, as it is, it's passable entertainment that the kids will love and for the most part the original's magic is intact. I suppose it could have turned out much worse.



  • Excellent production values
  • The magic is still there
  • The new songs fit in nicely
  • Dan Stevens as the Beast
  • Solid supporting cast (Evans and Gad in particular)
  • Emma Watson seemed like a nice fit for Belle, but ...

  • ...her performance lacks emotion and she can't sing all that well.
  • New additions to the plot are unnecessary
  • Cartoonish CGI doesn't blend very well with the live-action making the concept of a live-action remake somewhat redundant.
  • Disney's refusal to take any big risks



No comments:

Post a Comment

Please keep the comments as civilised as possible, and refrain from spamming. All comments will be moderated. Thank you !