It’s hard to list all the things I found underwhelming about Disney’s live action Beauty and the Beast film. To say that the original animated classic was a landmark in hand drawn animation is absolutely an understatement; nearly 26 years later, it still holds up as a wonderfully groundbreaking and gorgeous film. 2017’s Beauty and the Beast lacks both the charm and the aesthetic splendor of its predecessor; it’s a meaningless and empty remake that, for the most part, just poorly mimics the original’s iconic scenes. If Disney wants to continue this trend of remaking their animated classics into live action films, I’d prefer they do something new with the premise, like they did with Maleficent; I hated that movie with a passion, but I can at least appreciate the fact that they added their own spin to the narrative. Beauty and the Beast is just a retread with paper-thin supplementary material that adds nothing to the experience; the extra scenes serve as annoying distractions rather than a useful opportunity to expand upon the story in an interesting way and flesh out the characters backstories and motivations. It’s like going to a concert and seeing a band you love from the 80’s; you’re there to hear their hits so you can get your fix of nostalgia, but in-between those classic hit songs are selections from their newer albums that no one gives a s**t about; this is what I experienced with Beauty and the Beast, I wanted the movie to just hurry up and get to all those familiar and cherished classic scenes; anytime this film deviated from the source material, I found myself yawning uncontrollably.
“…it’s a meaningless and empty remake that, for the most part, just poorly mimics the original’s iconic scenes.”
There are things that worked for me, however; I really enjoyed Luke Evans as Gaston, and Dan Stevens as The Beast. Both of them did a fantastic job at remaining true to the characters we know and love, while also adding an extra bit of nuisance to the parts. With Gaston, Luke Evans nails the cockiness and adds more viciousness and malice to the character. Dan Stevens adds some subtle vulnerability and doses of dry wit to his take on Beast, making his transition from angry monster to gentle and kind host slightly less jarring than in the original. His voice is also very close to Robby Benson’s take on the character, which is welcome considering that a lot of the voice talent in this film sounds quite a bit off from their original animated counterparts; Dan Stevens, with the help of some vocal modulation, sounds like The Beast should. I also loved the costumes, they were a work of art, and when the scenery wasn’t littered with poor CG, the set design and props were also magnificent.
I firmly believe Emma Watson was miscast as Belle; it’s incredibly obvious she was having trouble acting against the green screen and CG animated characters. This is a big problem, because a majority of her screen time is spent in the company of these non-practical characters. Her singing was like kicking a sick cat, and her acting teetered from dreadfully morose to downright whiny and annoying when it came time for her character to emote. Another low point is Josh Gad; he’s that annoying failed clone that scientists illegally grew from a busted pimple on the left cheek of Jack Black’s a*s. His take on Gaston’s lackey, Lefou, was far more annoying than I could have ever possibly imagined. Kevin Kline plays Maurice, Belle’s Father. I was bored every time he showed up, as a lot of the shoehorned expanded content explicitly focused on him. It felt like he was going through the motions and there for the money. Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellen voice Lumière and Cogsworth, respectively; McGregor uses an exaggerated French accent that’s so over-the-top that it’s borderline offensive, which, to be fair, is pretty consistent with the original voiced by Jerry Orbach. I feel like McGregor nailed some of his lines, and completely went insane and off the rail on quite a few others. McKellen does a fine job, but his Cogsworth is very different from the originally excitable and high-strung version of the character we’re used to; McKellen’s voice is too deep and his speech patterns are too slow so it’s great he mostly made the role his own. The new design for Mrs. Potts is terrifying, but Emma Thompson does an admirable job imitating the irreplaceable Angela Lansbury.
“…anytime this film deviated from the source material, I found myself yawning uncontrollably.”
There was a big deal made about Josh Gad’s Lefou character being gay, and honestly it all feels like a publicity ploy to drum up controversy. Yes, the character comes off a bit…well, flamboyant, but his sexuality is never explicitly addressed in a legitimate manner. If there weren’t such big deal made about it, I wouldn’t have even batted an eye because that big reveal they teased is a “blink and you’ll miss it” situation. I feel that if I was gay man, and I heard my sexuality was going to be represented and acknowledged for the first time in a Disney film, I’d be wildly disappointed by how little it’s touched upon; it all just feels like a disingenuous publicity stunt.
When the film revisits the classic scenes from the animated version, most of the time it’s completely underwhelming. With the exception of the “Be Our Guest” musical number, and a portion of the “Something There” montage, nothing in this film comes close to being as beautiful and spectacular as the original. I know this is destined to be a big hit, but it’s a pale impression of a much better film, and until we’re done riding this tidal wave of nostalgia, Disney will keep force-feeding us these useless live action remakes, I just hope they don’t get any worse than this one.
Beauty and the Beast (2017) Directed by: Bill Condon. Written by: Stephen Chbosky, Evan Spiliotopoulos. Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellan, Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci.
6 out of 10