Giving Beauty and the Beast the live-action treatment is a bold move by Disney. After all, the animated flick scored a Best Picture nomination, marking a first for full-length animated feature film. The new film is a beautiful recreation of that timeless classic, but ultimately lacks the original’s charm.
Thankfully, Beauty and the Beast doesn’t stray far at all from it’s source. Belle (Emma Watson) is a bit of an outsider in her little French village. She is wooed by an egotistical buffoon, Gaston (Luke Evans), but she’s a smart girl and sees what a fucking idiot he is beneath his pretty smile. When her father (Kevin Kline) is imprisoned in a mysterious hidden castle, Belle agrees to take his place and soon learns that the “beast” who acts as her captor is actually a poor chump who is living out the final days of an enchanted curse along with his housemates, who have been condemned to live out their lives as household decor: a clock, or a piano, or a wardrobe, what have you.
It should be pointed out this film is directed by Bill Condon, who is best known, unfortunately for him, as the director of the last two Twilight installments. Not that this should be held against him, but he has experience with over-bloating source material, which is certainly one of the problems here. The good news is there is a lot more that works here than doesn’t, and a lot of that credit goes to the talented cast.
Emma Watson is pretty spot on as Belle. I know a lot of people are losing their minds over this casting, but she handles both the weight of the character and the singing responsibilities extremely well. As Gaston, Evans steals nearly every scene he’s in as the conceited, narcissistic villain of our story. His sidekick, LeFou is played by Josh Gad and — just to address the incredibly stupid controversy — is the first openly gay character in a Disney movie.
It’s never distracting. It shouldn’t even be an issue, nor should it be surprising to anyone who has seen the animated movie, that LeFou is gay. I mean…come on. But also, who cares? This movie may have a few problems, but this is not one of them. Gad is funny in the role and adds a much needed punch of comic relief. In a movie that kinda condones beastiality, a gay best friend should be the least of anyone’s concerns.
The Beast is a whole separate issue. He is both one of the most intriguing characters in the movie and at the same time, another glaring problem that feels like a summation of the product as a whole. First off, his look isn’t bad, but mostly the CG looks unfinished. It’s best when the dude sticks to the shadows so you can’t see the tragically weak animation used to bring this crucial character to life.
That being said, the dude playing the Beast (Dan Stevens, Downton Abbey) is good, even if there doesn’t seem to be enough interaction between with Belle. Their scenes serve as the most compelling sequences, but it takes a while to get there, and once they do, it leaves you wanting more of them together … just not always singing.
Yes, Beauty and the Beast fully embraces its musical roots. The musical numbers, from the original and a few new tunes, are on point, but holy hell there are a lot of them. This is really where the films troubles settle in and helps to add unnecessary fat to the bones of the story. As fun as the musical numbers can be, there are 4 or 5 too many, and seem to constantly derail momentum during the second half of the flick.
At 2 hours and 10 minutes, the film is entirely too long, especially when you consider the animated flick was less that 90. It’s interesting. It’s beautiful. And for the most part, very engaging, but it drags when it shouldn’t. Just when things seem like they’re going to start steamrolling, Beast steps aside for another solo. After a while, it’s just like ‘oh, come the fuck on…” However, I think this is a flaw that fans are going to be more than happy to overlook.
Then again, it shouldn’t be a shocker that a Disney movie is full of bloat. But fuck it, it’s still a pretty decent flick. So, yeah, it’s too long and bloated, but it sticks to the source material pretty well. Too well? Maybe. Ultimately, this meticulous recreation may knock a little of the charm and shine off the finished product, but Beauty and the Beast is a solid entry into Disney’s ever-growing library of reproduced movies. Next up, Mulan and The Lion King (Separately, not together.)