Film Critic and Writer for ComiConverse.com, the Founder and co-host of the official Nerdcast Network Podcast
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Disney strikes again with another live-action remake of their classic tales with Beauty and the Beast. But does it revive nostalgia? Find out as our film critic Jordan Samuel dives into the latest Disney romance.
Film Review: Beauty And The Beast (2017)
Belle is a young woman who is taken prisoner by a Beast in his castle in exchange for the freedom of her father Maurice. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and she learns to look beyond the Beast’s exterior to recognize the true heart and soul of the human Prince within. Meanwhile, a hunter named Gaston is on the loose to take Belle for himself and later intends to hunt down the Beast at any cost.
Disney renaissance is regarded as the best era in animated films, with the original Beauty and the Beast (1991) winning numerous awards and overwhelming love from cinema goers. Seamlessly blending together CGI and animated work into one art piece; feeling mature yet child friendly tackling big themes including blind love.
Growing up the movie was always played on VHS during winter months, becoming an all-time favorite of mine. With the constant effort Disney’s put in redoing their animated slate in live-action – Cinderlla (2015) and The Jungle Book (2016) are coming to mind – the idea of this classic being retold worried me, but the final product is a decent adaptation.
This is the greatest 1-for-1 remake I’ve seen in a while on film, but Beauty and the Beast forgets one important thing reinventing a story for another generation of kids.
We follow the same premise as the original, as the selfish prince (Dan Stevens) goes through a dark punishment and is turned into a Beast (this time adapted in frankly awful CGI). The result lacks any intimidation, in turn making this a less interesting take on the character. After the introduction, we are introduced to the pro-feminist and all-around sweetheart Belle (Emma Watson), who ends up falling in love with the prince during a comfortable 2-hour run time.
Both actors do mixed jobs with the characters, failing in providing any real connection between themselves and that leads into some awkward situations; though I did love their musical numbers. Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) tries his best at giving us a worthy live-action adaptation, with some incredible set design and decent enough musical sequences; channeling in some skills learned from his previous work. He just ultimately fails at making the audience care about these characters, no matter the situation which drags down to the overall performances and script.
Emma Watson (Harry Potter) is the book worm Belle, the actress tries to provide a good performance but ultimately doesn’t try hard enough to elevate above the source material. Lacking the charm needed the pull off a scene or form a connection with the other cast members. I knew this take on Belle wouldn’t be the greatest, as live-action takes on Disney Princesses are hard to imagine on the screen. Her character might not set the screen on fire, but that was never going to be case in this odd remake. I did feel like her musical performance was quite reasonable, if not for some auto-tuned songs. Those elements, sadly, don’t meet the brilliance of the 1991 original. Watson tried to make her character follow the feminist ethos, but this doesn’t work well with a story which has been told countless times. Her delivery also comes across very amateur in the end.
Dan Stevens is the Beast and he doesn’t really have much to do in this retelling, lacking the intimidation and dark look needed for a story like this. He is miscast in this movie: I never felt a connection between Belle and The Beast. It’s more of the awkward sort of romance.
Nothing about his character felt real to me and that is mainly down to the silly voice he has this time around. Disney in 1991 did so much better giving us an emotional pull for liking the ugly Beast; he just feels like the biggest weirdo here.
Luke Evans plays the so-so villain Gaston in this remake, who does his best with the material he’s given, but ultimately doesn’t feel menacing enough. I did enjoy his over-the-top performances in the singing sequences however, which begs the question why not cast him as the lead?
Evans is a brilliant thespian actor and his elegance would have worked better in the titular role.
Kevin Kline is Belle’s father who is a brilliant sight to behold in this adaptation, being the only outstanding performance in the film. But ultimately Kline feels wasted in terms of weight brought into the production. Script rewrites would have helped with some emotional impact and improved on Belleâs development; he should have been used more in the opening minutes to make his capture have real impact.
All of the award-winning songs from the 1991 original like âGastonâ and âBe Our Guestâ return but somehow donât seem to work as well in this edition. Condon includes a couple brand new numbers, but these arenât as memorable, I would have rather they follow The Jungle Book (2016) in terms of not making the music as huge a part of the story.
Vocals are typical when linked to the original, Dan Stevens and Emma Watson just cannot connect in those moments as auto-tune takes over the cinema speakers. Seasoned stage theater actors (Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson and Ian McKellen) in the filmâs supporting cast do better â but in different aspects â as those characters have stronger accents.
The live-action Beauty and the Beast doesnât deliver an instant-classic like the 1991 original, but it should be enough for younger people to enjoy the story.
Condonâs Beauty and the Beast is a more streamlined romantic take on Disney’s classic and that is not a bad thing: lilted with sprinkles of good performances. It just lacks a needed connection between the two lovers, and ended up feeling like it needed more time in development.