Beauty and the Beast (PG)
Director: Bill Condon
Stars: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens & Luke Evans
Running Time: 2hrs 9mins.
An adaptation of the Disney fairy tale about a monstrous-looking prince and a young woman who fall in love.
A couple of weeks ago I reviewed Kong: Skull Island and I described it as a movie that has all the correct elements in place but sadly never gets better than just ok.
And here we are again.
Remaking Beauty and the Beast was never going to be easy. The original 1991 animated movie from Disney remains one of its most beloved movies and still looks great today, being one of the first animated movies to use CGI and traditional animation together – remember the ballroom scene (tale as old as time etc)? Well, that scene was groundbreaking at the time.
So director of this 2017 version, Bill Condon, had really only two choices, go down the Maleficient road and do something new with the story OR stick to the original completely.
He stuck to it completely.
And that is a pity because the movie at no point feels fresh or groundbreaking and often becomes outright boring.
It is literally the original done live-action. The tale as old as time is all here, Belle (Watson) lives in a little provincial town in France and is bored with life living with her father (Kevin Kline) where the only interesting thing is her being pursued by the obnoxious would-be suitor Gaston (Evans). When her father goes to market and gets lost, he stumbles upon a hidden kingdom where the Beast (Stevens) dwells. You know the rest.
The performances in Beauty and the Beast are, for the most part, pretty bland; Watson feels horribly miscast here and seems to be half asleep throughout the movie and looks like she is uncomfortable reacting to all the CGI madness around her, primarily this cgi is led by Stevens as the Beast who, possibly because he’s all motion capture, has no chemistry with Watson at all… at no point do you believe that she might fall in love with this creature.
The saving grace, performance wise, is Luke Evans’ Gaston who perfectly embodies the loathsome character and genuinely does so with relish… his side kick LeFou (Josh Gad) is pretty fun too and it’s interesting to see his doubt in his friend as the movie progresses. Kevin Kline too is solid as Belle’s father but has nothing to do here, sadly.
As for the living items in the Beast’s castle such as Cogsworth, Lumiere and Mrs Potts, played by Ian McKellan, Ewan McGregor and Emma Thompson, well, they are pretty on point but again are exactly what they were in original movie, with nothing fresh added.
One point that i feel must be made is that Beast himself, here a fully CGI creation, was a dire misstep. At no point in the movie does he look real. In fact it’s very noticeable that, even in well lit scenes, he is always in shadow (often inexplicably), clearly because Disney are aware that the effects are never quite right… at points he looks like a cartoon character with human eyes stuck on and it ranges from just bad to unnerving, sometimes within one scene.
It made me long for Ron Perlman’s Beast in the 1980s TV series and Perlman again as Hellboy, where the character was fantastically realised through prosthetics, animatronics and good old-fashioned make-up – and I feel that the Beast here would have been a much more realistic and believable creation if done old school; for the most expensive movie ever made, it looks glorious with the sets and costumes stealing the show but also, by contrast, terribly fake too when Stevens’ Beast is around.
That all said, it’s not a total disaster. I watched it with my seven-year-old daughter who was completely enchanted and enthralled and was cheering by the final, inevitable showdown, so perhaps seeing it as a jaded adult isn’t the ideal way to watch – that said, from the company that has been doing this forever and also does Star Wars and Marvel, I feel this is inexcusable… Disney can’t make a Beauty and the Beast that appeals universally? I don’t buy that at all.
So overall, while every penny of the budget is onscreen, Beauty and the Beast just lacks any real magic and falls flat and, personally, I find that completely unforgivable. It feels lazy and, if it hadn’t cost $160m to make I would call it a cheap cash in. As it is, it’s just a poor effort indeed.
2 out 5 Nerds