Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Genre: Fantasy, Family, Musical
Director: Bill Condon
Starring:Emma Watson, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline, Ian McKellen, Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci
Beauty and the Beast (2017) is Disney’s newest live-action remake of a popular animated film. They put together a talented cast, added a respected somewhat unknown director (Bill Condon), gave them a decent budget and asked for success similar to The Jungle Book (2016). Could this film possibly even come close to the 966 million dollars that Jungle Book made? Things became a bit complicated after a reveal (minor of spoiler warnings here) that a character (LeFou) was gay. Suddenly, the film was banned in parts of Alabama and being torn apart by hardcore religious groups worldwide. Add in some mixed reviews and one could wonder if this film would be a rare Disney flop.
Beauty and the Beast is about Belle, an intelligent, headstrong woman who lives in a small town that can not understand her. She winds up in the company of a cursed prince in his enchanted palace. Could a romance be far off?
I came out of this film impressed. While not flawless, I found it to be humorous, well-acted, and visually stunning.
What I Didn’t Like:
Emma Watson did a good job as Belle, but there were a couple times in the first act that I wasn’t convinced. Also, she lacks one area that is very hard to master. She isn’t a convincing crier. (To be fair, many actors aren’t.)
While I appreciate representation of all people, the boasting by Disney for having a gay character wasn’t merited. (They are far from the first. LeFou is not a major character, nor a grand personality to be mimicked by anyone.) LeFou was comic relief (Fitting that he is The Fool) much as he was in the animated version. For all the silly scandal, it didn’t play out to be anything and was easily overlooked I was expecting something huge, but instead I got a very minuscule and artistic aesthetic.
The editing in the first act was a bit choppy. It was disorienting once or twice. (When cuts take you out of the film even for a second. That is an issue. )
The story follows the same path as the animated film. This is no shock to anyone, but one could argue they occasionally lean too heavily on the animated film rather than go on a different path. This aspect didn’t concern me much, but from a film standpoint, I could see why others would want more originality.
The beast looks better on screen than on television to me. For a fantasy film, it was above average. However, his look still was a bit off to me. Like the technology is coming close, but not quite there yet.
There are a few new songs scattered throughout, but they didn’t impress me. (Except for one in the third act which I loved!)
What I Did Like
I enjoyed everyone cast in this film. Emma Watson played a quality Belle as did Dan Stevens as The Beast/Prince. Josh Gad was surprisingly funny as Lefou (it is good to see the comic relief actually being comical). The standout was Luke Evans as Gaston. This may have been his finest performance to date. (Easily top five for me.) He was made to play that role.
The voices of the various characters within the castle were also fitting and delightful. The all brought a little extra charm throughout the movie while the leads drove it home.
Despite a couple of personal issues early on, I found Bill Condon’s directing and vision to be fantastic. This is a fantasy film and they did a great job bringing various things to love and adding emotion to them.
The music that you love from the original has a distinct flavor. This film enhances the color and majesty of it all. It almost always builds to a brilliant conclusion that inspires.
The story has a few alterations from the animated film, but I enjoyed these differences.
I see it as a good thing when you can take a hardcore fan of the original film/source material and they come out satisfied with this new adaptation. The person I took this time was thrilled. She found it fantastic and loves it almost as much as the original. (That is some high praise indeed.)
As far as these live-action films go, Beauty and the Beast is not as good as The Jungle Book. However, it is a close second. The visuals are outstanding and the detailed musical numbers energize and enliven you. With a quality cast, solid direction by Condon, and a magical atmosphere, Beauty and the Beast is certainly worth watching.
The Disney Ladder
Beauty and the Beast (1991) Animated
The Jungle Book (2016)
Beauty and the Beast (2017)
The Jungle Book (1967) (Animated )