Bill Condon / Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor / Fantasy / 2017 / PG / 129 mins
Another year, another Disney live action remake. Now it’s Belle’s turn to sing and dance in the spotlight. With a stellar cast, box office success was certain, but a lack of originality ruins what potentially could have been a good film.
Just to recap: Belle (Emma Watson), a book-loving woman in late 1700s France, is fighting off interest from former soldier and outright narcissist Gaston (Luke Evans). When father Maurice (Kevin Kline) is imprisoned in a cursed castle by a fearsome Beast (Dan Stevens) Belle trades her life for his. As time goes by Belle comes to see the Beast in a different light, but the ignorant Gaston & co. have other ideas.
I’m going to strike for the heart first: aside from star power, I’m baffled as to why Emma Watson was cast as Belle. She can’t sing and she lacked emotion. It’s a plain performance from someone under the spell of Stockholm Syndrome. Others don’t fit the bill either, such as Emma Thompson’s Mrs Potts. Her accent is atrocious. It sounds like an Oxbridge alma mater was told to go undercover in the East End and believed everyone actually spoke in Cockney rhyming slang.
Stevens is as reliable as anyone in conveying the Beast’s internal conflict, seemingly both rash and reasonable at the same time, his crowning moment coming in the ‘Evermore’ song. Though if we’re turning this into a competition (and I shall) then Evans comfortably won best singer. In fact, he was the only actor who lived up to his billing, even if Gaston Mark II was a shadow of the Herculean masculinity he once was (point being: he was better as a stereotype).
I can’t help but think the cast gathered and swore to act like children’s entertainers at an orange juice fuelled party for five year olds. They’ve all got that ever-so-fake ‘one more hour and we’re out of here’ smile and inflated body language. What I’m describing is a panto, so if you’re in the mood for cringe then by all means…
And what was the supposed ‘gay’ moment that outraged half the world? And why was Lumiere played by Ewan McGregor? How hard can it be to get a French actor??
The pacing of the film was diabolical. Split second clips are so poorly organised they end up funny and plot holes crop up too. It was obnoxiously long (the kid kicking my chair confirmed that) and could be summarised as nothing more than an extended version of the 90s animation with more songs and flashbacks. Safe to say fans of the original classic will no doubt swoon at the thought of that.
For all the hate, the costumes and Rococo set design was second to none. With Suicide Squad‘s recent Oscar win for makeup, perhaps Beauty and the Beast stands a chance next year too? On a similar note, you can tell most of the production money went into the CGI because it’s outstanding. The work on the Beast especially is fantastic, clearly building on the stellar work of last year’s Jungle Book.
I was hoping Disney would take an approach similar Kenneth Brannagh’s Cinderella, which removed the songs and focused exclusively on the tale. It worked, and would have worked just as well here. If anything, I’m shocked that Cinderella is now the benchmark for a good remake, no offence Ken.
It’s a tale as old as time, and by that I mean a blockbuster brimming with CGI that cheaply tugs heart strings. Beauty and the Beast is a definitive ‘one for the fans’ movie but young newcomers won’t be too disappointed with the pretty colours and singalongs either.
Film as a Film – 2 / Target Audience – 3 / General Audience – 2
Beauty and the Beast is in cinemas now
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