With Disney remaking a film every year, stakes were particularly high this time around for the retelling of their beloved classic, Beauty and the Beast.
Beauty and the Beast stars Emma Watson as Belle, a headstrong girl living in a small village, who is taken prisoner by a Beast (played by Dan Stevens) in his isolated castle. Belle befriends the bewitched servants of the Beast, learning that beyond his ugly exterior there is a kindhearted prince within. Will Belle fall in love with the Beast, being the one to break the dreaded curse he is under? Or will Gaston (Luke Evans), an athletic and narcissistic man with the hots for Belle, get in their way?
I will start by saying the visuals of Beauty and the Beast are quite simply, phenomenal. I loved every set piece, every backdrop, every costume, and every character design. Just from the trailers I had a feeling this would be one of my favorite things about the film, and I was exactly right. The character designs, costumes, and locations worked as great call backs to the animated version, and they transferred very well over to the big screen.
One of the most memorable parts of the film for me is the first aerial shot we get of the Beast’s castle, which was darkly lit and covered in snow. It reminded me of just how grand Disney could get in its films. The castle itself was so breathtaking that I was completely awestruck. Every little aspect of the castle interior felt so meticulously detailed that it held my interest all on its own.
The Beast’s servants were probably my favorite characters in Beauty and the Beast. They were voice acted and designed very well, with more memorable personalities and looks than any of the human actors. Ewan McGregor (as Lumiere the candelabra) and Sir Ian Mckellen (as Cogsworth the clock) were my personal favorites, as they brought a lot of passion and spirit to their roles.
What I unfortunately found to be my least favorite aspect of Beauty and the Beast was Emma Watson’s performance as Belle. It’s no secret that I don’t think Watson is a good actress, but I found her role as Belle particularly bad. I thought she lacked any emotion or expression in her performance, only giving us the same dull look she gave in every single Harry Potter flick.
Emma Watson as Belle, mixed with a hint of poor writing, led to a severe lack of chemistry between her and the Beast. I was shocked with how little their characters seemed to match up and connect. Everything surrounding their romance felt very forced and left me wishing for something more.
The musical part of the film was a bit of a mixed bag for me. Not to pick on Emma Watson again, but I don’t feel like she can sing very well. There were many times during her solos that I could pick out the auto tuning, which I found very annoying. It wasn’t just Emma either, because there were plenty of actors and actresses in this flick that astonishingly could not sing.
The songs themselves, when performed with all the choreography and instruments, were pretty enjoyable. At some points the songs could get a little bland, and on occasion they felt like they dragged out too much, but overall they were good fun.
Just as everyone has different musical tastes, it will ultimately come down to the individual to decide how good the songs and singers are in Beauty and the Beast. I know children and families are sure to love every minute of the charming songs, so isn’t that all that really matters?
Another issue I had with Beauty and the Beast is that many parts of the film were beat for beat scenes from the original cartoon. What’s even worse, the few tweaks and changes they actually made ultimately hurt the film. For example, there is one scene in the cartoon where the Beast gives Belle a bedroom in his castle, acknowledging that she might be the one to finally break the curse. However in this remake, it is Lumiere and Cogsworth who show Belle to her room. When the Beast finds out that they took Belle from the dungeon and gave her a room, he is absolutely furious. This scene here makes the Beast look more foolish, idiotic, and cruel than the filmmakers ever intended. Wouldn’t falling in love with Belle be at the forefront of his thoughts from the get go? Why write the Beast as more mean than in the animated version?
I think these issues bring up the very valid argument that, maybe all this is a little overboard. Do we really need to see live-action remakes of Mulan, The Lion King, and Aladdin? From a monetary standpoint of course it makes sense to remake them. However, it makes little to no sense from an artistic view. If the entire film is going to be a beat for beat remake with a few half-baked ideas thrown in, than what’s really the point?
In the end, I know the masses are going to go crazy for this new adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. Families, couples, and children will all love every minute of magic this film has to offer, and rightfully so. Beauty and the Beast is a very charming film, with its amazing visuals, great choreography, and well-designed characters. So while I had many issues with this remake, and firmly believe that it’s far from perfect, I wouldn’t be in good conscience if I didn’t give it a recommendation. It’s a solidly made film that the whole family can and will enjoy.
The Verdict: C+