STARRING: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Audra McDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nathan Mack, Adrian Schiller and Hattie Morahan
An adaptation of the fairy tale about a monstrous-looking prince and a young woman who fall in love.
Beauty and the Beast tells the story of a prince transformed into a beast by an enchantress due to his selfishness, with the only way the spell to be broke is that he learns to love another and earn her love in return before the last petal falls from a rose. Years later we follow a young woman named Belle, who searches for her missing father and encounters the beast living in a dark, forbidding castle with living antiques as his only companions. As Belle stays more with the Beast, she learns that true beauty is found within.
In keeping up with their new tradition of remaking their animated classics, Disney’s 1991 animated feature Beauty and the Beast is the latest live-action adaptation for todays film viewing audience. I grew up on the animated film and when the live-action adaptation was announced, I was intrigued by what Disney could do with modern day technology to bring it to life once more on the big screen. Then they dropped a couple of trailers leading up to the films cinematic release and then I became skeptical of a few things but figured they wouldn’t bother me once I seen the film for myself.
The film is a faithful adaptation of the 1991 animated version, with the set and costume designs being thoroughly memorable and feeling like the characters from the animated film were brought to life here. There was a few performances that I enjoyed here from the ensemble. Luke Evans was definitely the standout performance here, chewing up the scenery as the charmingly villainous Gaston and shares a good deal with chemistry with his trusty sidekick LeFou played by Josh Gad. The both of them have fun with their roles and it shows as when their scenes appear in the film it brought a different level of enjoyment compared to everything else. Most of the rest of the cast are fine in their roles, particularly Kevin Kline and Ian McKellen, though their roles are underused.
The problem I have with the film is that it just feels slightly…..flat. The direction hardly elevates the film and I think the decision to make the likes of Lumière, Cogsworth etc. look more realistic was a mistake as the characters have very, very limited facial expressions because of this. The design also of the Beast I still couldn’t buy unfortunately during the course of the film though I did think Dan Stevens performance as the character was fine. In terms of Emma Watson’s performance as Belle, it just didn’t work for me and would go as far to consider her to be miscast in the role. The performance and character just lacked the charm and warmth from the animated film and her reactions during certain sequences (especially the Be Our Guest) just didn’t work. Speaking of Be Our Guest, Ewan McGregor, god bless him, tries his best with his performance as Lumière but the French accent attempt at times is too distracting and some of the musical numbers from the original were fine, though overstuffed visually and the new ones are pretty forgettable though give the likes of Maurice and the Beast their musical number to shine amongst the other characters.
While it’s almost a faithful play by play of the 1991 animated film, Beauty and the Beast just lacks the spark and charm of what made the original so beloved by my generation growing up. For me Emma Watson just wasn’t the right fit to play Belle, Dan Stevens feels slightly underused. While the special effects are fine at points, it feels completely overblown during the musical numbers to the point that it’s too jarring though that could be mainly down to the direction. Thankfully Luke Evans and Josh Gad are great in this film, bouncing off each other really well as Gaston and LeFou and since they’re having fun, the audience is having fun also. 6/10