Beauty and the Beast is a live-action retelling of the classic animated Disney musical from the 90s. The film follows Belle, an intellectual young woman who is mocked by her village for being able to read. Belle longs for adventure outside of her ordinary town life, but when her Father is locked up for trespassing in a mysterious castle in the woods she trades places with him and becomes prisoner to the cursed Beast that resides there. The Beast, and all the servants of the castle, have been cursed for many years due to the shallow nature of the Beast, and only by finding true love before a magical rose wilts can the spell be lifted. Time is almost up, and so the Beast and his servants try to court Belle. I think most people know this story as nothing really changes between this film and the original other than a few elements are extended or changed slightly. I am of the mind-set that all these live action remakes are pointless cash grabs and unnecessary, but if it is done well I will still enjoy them, for example I really liked the new Jungle Book film because they did something new with the story. That being said, the stuff that this film added to the story was uninteresting to me, and as most of the film was an exact re-tread of its predecessor, but not done as well, I came away feeling mostly disappointed. This film is directed by Bill Condon, and stars Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson and Ian Mckellen.
I think the overwhelming problem with this film, for me at least, was that it felt like there was no energy behind anything that happened. A lot of it felt flat and safe, as if everyone involved in the film was merely accepting a pay check and didn’t really care about the final product. It wasn’t offensively bad or annoying or anything like that (well some stuff was but I’ll get to that) but it just didn’t have the sense of wonder and excitement that the original film had in spades, and it’s a shame because there were some things that I really liked in this film, they were just lost behind a lot of the boring and uninteresting things. The only performances that felt like the actors were trying were that of Luke Evans and Josh Gad, who played Gaston and LeFou, and these weren’t great performances by any means, but at least it felt like they were having fun with the characters. The voice work for the furniture, especially Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson, and Ian Mckellen as Lumiere, Mrs Pots, and Cogsworth respectively, was also fun and entertaining, but when they later appear in person they overact and don’t feel as fun anymore. Dan Stevens, who played the Beast, was good when he was being angry and Beast like, but as he became more human he became uncomfortable and awkward to watch, so much so that it was actually funny and ruined the impact of the emotional change. Emma Watson’s performance was very distracting, over-acted and bland. She really got on my nerves throughout the film, she acted as if she was performing for an audience of two year olds, and I know it is a kids film but that doesn’t mean you should be patronising and half-ass everything. She was noticeably auto-tuned when she was singing and didn’t act through her songs like the other characters were at least trying to do. I really disliked her throughout the whole film which was disappointing because she has shown that she can act in fantasy films before with Harry Potter.
The cinematography and visual style of the film was also very bland and uninteresting. Every shot looked like a green screen effect, even ones of Belle in a field which could have easily been done practically, looked fake. The colour pallet was dull and dark which didn’t suit the fantasy and wonder the film seemed to be going for. It could have been bright and colourful but instead was just boring to look at. For some reason they tinkered with a lot of the original songs in small but distracting ways, for example adding gaps for extra dialogue or little musical riffs in the middle of verses so the character can do a backflip or something like that. The problem is, these weren’t done very well and ended up ruining the perfect pacing of these great songs. ‘Be our Guest’ and ‘Belle’ especially felt wrong and lost the charm and fun that they had before simply because of the bad tinkering. There were also a few new songs, but these were mostly very forgettable. I also found a lot of the extra backstory elements to be unnecessary and jarring for the flow of the film.
Like I said previously though, there were some things that I liked a lot in this film, it’s just a shame that they got lost in the boring and messy things. For example, this film dedicates more time to how and why Belle and the Beast fall in love, which is something that happens pretty quickly in the original film. I like that they tried to fix that issue, as a lot of people had with the original. They made their duet ‘Something there’ a lot longer and have more scenes of them building a relationship, and this section in the middle ended up being my favourite part of the whole film. In the original he saves her life and shows her a library and then she’s pretty much in love, so it’s nice to see more of a realistic relationship in this film. I also absolutely loved one of the new songs they added, it’s a Beast solo song called ‘Evermore.’ Dan Stevens sung and emoted it beautifully, it’s a powerful ballad that stood out amazingly and I wish all the other new songs had had as much effort put into them as this one clearly had. I immediately bought the song when I got home, it was better than a lot of the covers of older songs as well. Emma Thompsons version of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ was also pretty good, as it was the only old song they didn’t mess with, and as I previously mentioned the performances of Josh Gad and Luke Evans, and the voice work for the furniture, were entertaining enough.
It’s a shame that this film wasn’t better. I love the story of Beauty and the Beast and it would have been great to see a modern retelling of the story done well. Unfortunately the overall lack of energy and passion from the film making and performances made the film ultimately boring and uninteresting. There were some good ideas and fun elements hidden in there, and if you’re a die-hard Disney fan you might enjoy this any way, but I’d rather watch the original.
P.S. My apologise for the lack of a review last week, was way too busy helping backstage for St Ives Youth Theatre’s latest production of So I’ve Heard, which was very good by the way. Reviews will continue as normal from now. I wanted to see Get Out yesterday but the girlfriend picked this film, I got to say I told you so after though which was alright.