Having never seen the 1991 animated version of ‘Beauty And The Beast’, I knew little about the film but knew enough about what made it stand out. From the endearing Angela Lansbury title track, to the characters of Belle and Beast and the talking (and singing) inanimate objects, I knew enough. However, I knew little of the story and the other elements to this so partially went in blind for Disney’s latest live-action remake.
It was good, but not great. It didn’t carry me away as 2016s ‘The Jungle Book’ did and nor did it impress me with any visuals or acting. Yes, ‘The Jungle Book’ was mostly CGI but in my mind it was allowed to be in bringing an inhospitable jungle to life and also maintain a sense of fictional-realism with the talking animals and lack of musical numbers. ‘Beauty And The Beast’ goes straight for the nostalgic jugular in a bloated remake that adds 40mins of extra back-story and music to pad out a simply story whilst seemingly not being bold enough in how it portrays this for a new generation.
The characters are there, the songs are there, the settings, costumes and everything else. To me it looked faithful enough to maintain what realism they could. Our talking decorations like Lumiere the candlestick, Cogsworth the clock and Cadenza the harpsichord are all well rendered and manage to generate most of the humour and chemistry thanks to the talented actors behind them such as Ewan McGregor, Sir Ian McKellen, Stanley Tucci, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Audra McDonald, Nathan Mack and Emma Thompson. We spend most of the movie in their company, and they bring most of the fun thankfully so I had little complaints when they were singing, dancing, talking or prat-falling on screen.
What I will say however, is Emma Thompson is no Angela Lansbury, and pretty much ruins the iconic love song sounding like Dick van Dyke in ‘Mary Poppins’ with an overly accentuated British accent.
Away from the fan pleasing costumes, sets and songs that, to me, looked faithful represented and presented on screen – again, however, mostly in swarms of green-screen and animation – we have a dilemma with the title two; the beauty and her Beast.
Emma Watson should be used to playing opposite CGI characters and sets from her Hogwarts days, but here she fails to convince us she is invested in her fantasy world, and often looks like she’s struggling to react to much. Even opposite Dan Stevens as Beast, she’s not seeing Beast…just an actor wearing pads and masks. There’s little real emotion to her, and she comes across very…plain and wooden at times. Kevin Kline and Luke Evans manage to drag something from her in shared scenes, but only as her human co-stars. Most of the time, she doesn’t look too invested, and in turn didn’t captivate me. I imagine the animated version showed more pathos, emotion and warmth than this.
Dan Stevens thankfully gives a good portrayal of Beast when he’s not hiding in shadows in the “darker” tone Disney aimed for. His voice is tweaked well and he brings Beast to life with a good range of personality. The only issue is the sub-standard CGI that brings him physically to life. Sticking out in many scenes like a sore thumb, he looks as cartoonish as his 1991 counter-part in the real sets alongside Watson, and he walks like he has a stick up his backside. Facially, it works, but generally, it doesn’t more often than not. However, I’ll give them that in the classic ballroom dance, it does work with everything else to make that scene a memorable one…bar Emma Thompson ruining it.
Luke Evans is clearly having lots of fun here as Gaston, and does a good job selling both his vanity and his cruelness. Kevin Kline also does a decent job as a father doing what he can for his daughter, and Josh Gad as LeFou does what he can in every scene to highlight his character is gay, in case you needed clues along the way. And as said before, the vocal talent bring much humour and move the story forward more with their blatant exposition of plot points, character traits and narrative.
So in all, it’s not going to be the worst Disney live-action remake, but I don’t think it’s the best. It looks good for what is primarily a CGI heavy re-telling, but everything is there from what fans want and as said from the nostalgic teaser trailer, this appeals direct to the hearts of those who were captivated as children to now revisit it and sell it to theirs, but with lack of heart and real magic that the animated version probably captured so much more.