Movie Review: Beauty and the Beast
By Steven Slater
March 22, 2017
The reason I think it is better to be unfamiliar or at least removed from the 1991 version is because I kept hearing and reading about people having adverse reactions to slight changes here and there. I admit, it takes a moment to get used to Angela Lansbury being replaced by Emma Thompson as the voice of Mrs. Potts, but for the most part the new version sweeps you up and along. I actually felt the film was more akin to a theatrical musical production, as the musical numbers and dance sequences were all excellent, but some of the more filmic parts fell flat. The set design and costumes are wonderful, and the computer generated characters are all extremely well done. Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellan are great choices for the premier servants, the candelabra Lumiére and the small clock Cogsworth. The editing can be jarring in the more action-oriented sequences, however, as though they had to cut down the run time and removed some of the smooth shot transitions. Luckily, these moments are rare.
The weakest points, honestly, might be the main actors. Dan Stevens I can forgive slightly in his role as the Beast since he is mostly a creation of animators, although his facial features and voice acting come through well enough. But Emma Watson does not seem the perfect fit for the role of Belle. She does sing admirably well, but her performance seems to consist of a knowing bemused look most of the time, with no breathless anticipation of all the things happening around her. Perhaps she is too smart to play a fairy tale love interest, where you often need someone with a bit too much innocence for their own good.
The supporting cast, however, are all top notch. Luke Evans is a wonderful Gaston, although his demise is a bit abrupt, as he chews his way through songs and scenery. Josh Gad is his winking sidekick offering comedic relief. Kevin Kline does well with the little bits he is offered as Belle’s father. Surprisingly, I think Stanley Tucci was one of the more forgettable parts, perhaps since his character is just a walking harpsichord who appears in a handful of scenes. And McGregor and McKellan, as mentioned above, are perfect.
In the grand vision of Disney remastering their old catalog, this new Beauty and the Beast is definitely a win. This vision started on shaky ground, where although Alice in Wonderland earned a billion dollars, it was dreadful and dull. Maleficent was better, but still did not seem to recapture the magic. However, lately they have been on a roll, with three excellent productions in a row; Cinderella, The Jungle Book, and now Beauty and the Beast. I would probably rank this third of those three, but far above the first two efforts for bringing Disney magic to a new generation of children and families. I could easily see someone ranking this effort first, though, as it certainly has enough lively charm and true beauty. As for a more eternal question; do any of these efforts outdo their predecessors? No, but it keeps the tales alive and does so well. And if Disney balances out these efforts with magnificent new stories like Zootopia and Moana, I say keep it going. Next up on the live-action docket: Mulan.
Slater Grade: B+