Beauty and the Beast is the latest live-action remake of a Disney animated classic, directed by Bill Condon and starring Emma Watson, Dan Stevens and Luke Evans. I am a big fan of the 1991 original, and I also respect the other live-action remakes (such as Alice in Wonderland, Pete’s Dragon, Maleficent, Cinderella and The Jungle Book) because they tried something new with the source material and changed substantial portions of the stories. The same cannot be said about Beauty and the Beast.
The story is beat for beat the same, only with a couple new additions such as a backstory to explain where Belle’s mother is, why the Prince was kind of a douche, and how nobody in the land knew of the existence of the castle. Were all these important parts to tell? Not really, especially because how they are executed is closer to deleted scenes that you would find on the Blu-Ray features, rather than something worthwhile that adds depth to the characters. There are also a couple of new songs that never quite reach the quality of Alan Menken’s original score (even though he came back for composing this movie as well), and they feel like poor excuses to lengthen the runtime and justify the existence of this film.
As far as the performances go, there are hits and misses. While she definitely looks the part, Emma Watson sleepwalks through the movie as Belle, looking kinda bored whenever she smiles at something or someone. I cannot fault her too much though, because in the behind-the-scenes she is basically alone in the rooms talking to props or the camera, rather than to stand-ins. This also makes the romance between her and Dan Stevens’ Beast less believable and touching, for you never feel a true connection with their performances. And Dan Stevens is just fine as the Beast, acting more human than he did in the cartoon. The real MVPs are Kevin Kline, Luke Evans and Josh Gad: Kline is less cooky and eccentric as the father of Belle, being more grounded in reality; Evans and Gad are having a blast portraying Gaston and LeFou, and their scenes together were the highlight of the movie . I also really liked the voice talent of Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellen, who have good chemistry, while other cast members such as Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci and Audra McDonald are wasted to one-note side characters.
The production design is great, with pretty sets, detailed costumes and great make-up and hairstyling. The CGI, however, really needed more polish. What was really jarring were the faces of the castle’s staff: in the cartoon they were exaggerated and added an extra level of character, while here they focused so much on making them realistic that they lose all sense of charm, relying solely on the voice talent. The Beast is 100% CGI, and it shows: there is a lack of presence and weight to him, sometimes moving slowly and dragging himself through the castle, and other times jumping 30 feet in the other like Spider-Man would.
The cinematography was fine, but it lacked the sense of wonder and sweeping beauty that the animated version had. The keyword for this film is underwhelming. From the extravagant sets and excessive CGI, to the dance numbers that failed to capture the excitement and energy of the original, everything just kinda fell flat. This is by no means a bad movie, and they definitely had a big enough budget, but it all lacks the passion and joy of the original, instead feeling like Disney forced the crew to strictly follow certain guidelines without strafing too far.
Since this is a classic that everyone loves, many were going to complain if too much was changed. This film lacks risk, originality and care. It is far from bad, but neither is it great nor as good as the original. Those who love the 1991 classic might have a lot of fun watching it, but if you, like me, want more new aspects to remakes, you are going to be disappointed.
Visual Effects: 7.5
Violence & Gore: 4
Sex & Nudity: 0
Drugs & Profanity: 1
Intensity & Horror: 3