I know for most people my age, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast was a staple of their childhood. I was more of a Mulan person myself, so I did not go into this film having a deep connection from my childhood. However, I did quite enjoy the animated film so I was curious to see how the transition to live-action would be. Simply put: it is “okay”. There is some fun to be had, but ultimately this is a deeply flawed adaptation.
What if she is the one?
There is a play-like quality to this film, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The performances are often times quite theatrical, which worked in the context of the film. All of the actors did a really great job. The standouts for me have to be both Luke Evans and Josh Gad. They fit really well with their roles. Luke Evans may not necessarily have the right physique for Gaston, but his demeanor is spot on. Josh Gad was perfectly cast as Lafou, and even added a few layers to his portrayal of the lovable sidekick.
As far as the leads, both Emma Watson and Dan Stevens are good in their roles, but nothing about them truly stood out. All of the voice-over actors did great as well. I particularly loved Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellan. Their back and forth banter was responsible for most of the films’ laughs. Quite possibly the strongest aspect of the original animated film are the musical numbers, so how are they? They are some of the best parts of the film because they are extravagant and visually invigorating. There are some new songs that do not work quite as well as the more familiar ones, but all of them had a great visual style. Ultimately the film has some great moments that made the viewing experience fairly enjoyable. However, there is plenty with this film that upset me (As the review goes on it may seem like I hate this film but please understand I enjoyed it, there is just plenty wrong with it).
Show me the girl
Instead of being a carbon copy of the original, this film decides to make a few alterations. I am always open to changes as long as they feel necessary and have meaning. Surprise! Most of the changes do not work. First of all, the filmmakers felt the need to give some context to the Beasts’ parents as well as, Belle’s mother. While the elaboration on the Beasts’ parents added some layers to his character, Belle’s mother should never have been included. Not only did it add absolutely nothing to the film, it had one of the film’s most confusing moments. That being the moment the Beast reveals how the witch gave him some book that can teleport you anywhere you want. I will be the first to say that is so stupid.
They only use it once and it is clearly just introduced so the film can spend some time fleshing out Belle’s mysterious mother. Speaking about the witch, so she shows up early in the film to place the curse on the Beast (as it happened in the animated film). However, it is later revealed she is one of the townspeople (Agatha I believe) and during the fight between Gaston and the Beast she makes her way towards them. At this moment I though “Oh, they are going to change the ending a bit. Instead of killing off Gaston they will turn him into a beast and teach him a lesson.” I thought that was a clever way of ending the film, but no. Gaston still dies (well, his CGI model dies) while the witch is just there to turn the beast back into a human. For a big budget film, the effects are also not quite good. The beast initially looked okay, but as the film went on he looked progressively worse. Especially when he was all dressed up. His wardrobe looked like it was made of rubber. I do not expect this to be a film that ages very well.
Overall, if you are a big fan of the original, I am sure you will enjoy this adaptation. It is not bad but it lacks polish and relies too much on the popularity of the original (despite taking several risks that ultimately did not pay off). There are rumblings of yet another Beauty and the Beast film but I hope it does not happen. If this film is any indication, its sole purpose would be to make a buck rather than beguile the audience with a magical tale as old as time.