Film Review: Beauty and the Beast
I was initially skeptical of Emma Watson playing Belle, but she quickly won me over. She is beautiful enough to be the most beautiful girl in the village, and she looks smart enough that her 'bookishness' would make her an outcast among the villagers. That's a quality I am not even sure the animated Belle conveyed well enough. She does well with the songs, although it's obvious that she is not a singer. The rest of the cast is populated by well-known actors dutifully recreating their characters. Perhaps most impressive was Luke Evans as Gaston, who apparently has a great singing voice. It makes me wonder why Hollywood is so insistent on casting people who cannot sing as the leads in musicals while casting people who can sing in movies about vampires and hobbits and superheroes.
The script remains faithful to the animated movie, despite some added elements to the story, few of which come off as improvements. The role of the enchantress who curses the Beast is greatly expanded, which mostly entails her lurking in the background of scenes. There's also a sojourn to Paris that is bafflingly irrelevant to the plot. I did enjoy the tiny backstory given to the harpsichord and the wardrobe (played by Stanley Tucci and Audra McDonald, two actors I never mind having show up in a movie). The three new songs written for this movie are all terrible. I appreciate the attempt to make it into a more full-fledged musical, but why didn't they just use the songs written for the Broadway musical? Not including those songs was a huge missed opportunity.
Parts of the design elements of this movie seemed engineered to show up in the below-the-line categories at the Oscars, but I think every single of one them missed its mark. No way any of the dreadful new songs get nominated for Best Original Song. The CGI on the objects in the castle at times bordered on creepy, too realistic to believe they can sing and dance. The costumes were intended to look opulent, but instead look garish. Both the sets and the costumes in the village scenes look distractingly cheap, which is bizarre considering the movie cost $160 million dollars to make.
The 2017 Beauty and the Beast is very much an animated film, replete with a cartoonish visual style and dumb sight gags to keep kids interested. I'm sure many, maybe even most, moviegoers will love it for the same reason I didn't. But this was always guaranteed to be huge at the box office, which is why it makes no sense that of all the recent live action remakes of animated films (Maleficent, Cinderella, The Jungle Book), this is the one that is most faithful to the original. The assurance that it would be a hit should have given Disney the confidence to take a risk and introduce a bold take on the story for the 21st century. Considering that Dinsey has 12 more live action remakes of animated films in development, I hope the takeaway from this isn't that strict adherence to the original is what fans want. Even if it is, it comes off as a more of a lazy cash grab than an actual movie.
What did you think of Beauty and the Beast? Leave a comment!