There are some problems with it, but it’s entertaining enough.
The newest film in what is said will be a line of adaptations of previously successful Disney animated musicals has arrived a year after the first one hit theaters. This time, Beauty and the Beast, which in its original animated form was Oscar nominated, has been remade, although it stays mostly faithful to the original.
Emma Watson plays the heroine, Belle. Dan Stevens plays Beast, although he is, of course, mostly unrecognizable. Other than a few new songs and brief plot additions, there’s not much different about this one, other than how the new actors play the characters. Belle’s father is kidnapped by Beast (there is a slight change, here, where he is caught stealing a rose, per many of the classic versions of the fairy tale), and she trades places with him. In captivity, she learns to see the torment and suffering inside Beast and falls in love (I’m aware we call this Stockholm syndrome in real life). The chauvinist Gaston (Luke Evans) and the frightened and easily persuaded villagers then set out to kill Beast upon hearing he is keeping Belle.
While the big showstoppers like “Be Our Guest” and the namesake “Beauty and the Beast” don’t quite match the energy of the first, most of the other songs are worthy renditions, especially “Gaston,” which I dare say possesses some good things the original does not possess. The boisterous and ambiguous rapport between Gaston and his stooge LeFou (Josh Gad) elevates that portion of the story. It’s worthy to mention that LeFou’s intentionally implied homosexuality has sparked some controversy as of late. While these implications are present, they’re not very strong or explicit. LeFou is exaggerated as a buffoon and blind servant, but his effeminate qualities and expressions of attraction are fairly subtle and never really focused on, aside from the occasional “awkward moment” gag.
The costume and production design are all very extravagant and top notch, although many sequences don’t give these locations and visuals enough room to astound. There’s a bit more cutting than there should be in numbers like “Belle” or “Be Our Guest.” The CGI castle exteriors get all the glory while the blocking of characters and chorus in practical sets is shown rapidly and shot tightly. Additionally, though not surprised, I am a bit disappointed that they chose to create the look of Beast with computers and not makeup. Even with its darker, slightly scarier design, it doesn’t look nearly as cool as the makeup work done in Jean Cocteau’s live action Beauty and the Beast in 1946.
For the most part, almost all of the actors are capable singers, especially Luke Evans, whose bravado and voice are Broadway-worthy. Emma Watson sounds nice, too, though it’s not as rich as the voice of Belle in the original. Emma Thompson and Audra MacDonald (both talented musical performers) do justice to their characters, as well. Almost all of the music in the film, although sometimes reworked, is impressively done other than a few weak links. I’m not crazy about Ewan McGregor’s singing or his fake French accent in playing Lumiere. Also, I pretty much disliked all the new songs, whether or not they came from the stage adaptation.
This new Beauty and the Beast isn’t bad. There are some problems with it, but it’s entertaining enough and doesn’t feel like it’s sullying the original’s charm. I’d say there are a few worthwhile things to catch should you find yourself watching it, if that moment arrives for whatever reason. | Nic Champion