UK Release Date: 17th March 2017
Runtime: 129 minutes
Director: Bill Condon
Writer: Jordan Peele
Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson, Ian McKellen, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline, Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Synopsis: A woman is imprisoned in a castle by a vicious Beast, but soon warms to him as he shows a more sensitive side and defends him when nearby villagers arrive with the intention of killing the Beast.
Disney is currently raking in the cash with live-action remakes of its classic animated movies, from Cinderella to last year’s brilliant take on The Jungle Book. This time around, the studio is taking on its 1991 movie Beauty and the Beast, which became the first animated movie to ever receive a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars. There’s an A-list British feel, with the likes of Emma Watson and Luke Evans taking up the major roles previously best known in animated form and bringing them to life. It’s a sumptuous and consistently entertaining musical adventure with glittering costumes and toe-tapping songs, but also a sense that it’s all a little bit unnecessary.
Belle (Watson) lives with her father Maurice (Kevin Kline) in a small French village, batting away the advances of macho suitor Gaston (Evans). Maurice loses his way in a forest and ends up in the clutches of the Beast (Dan Stevens), but Belle replaces her father when she tracks him down. With the help of living candelabra Lumiere (Ewan McGregor) and clock Cogsworth (Ian McKellen), Belle tries to help the Beast uncover his previous humanity as the clock ticks down to the realisation of the curse that would doom him to be a hideous monster forever.
This new take on Beauty and the Beast is a visually stunning film, whether it’s the charming set of the small village we see early on or the glittering frocks and fireworks of the final dance number. The ‘Be Our Guest’ sequence, especially, is a triumph of noise and colour with some explosions of spectacle that wouldn’t be out of place in even the most extravagant of Baz Luhrmann films. These scenes showcase the best of what Bill Condon has to offer, with the musical numbers providing constant highlights throughout. In fact, one of the most striking things about Condon’s Beauty and the Beast is that its best moments are the ones it shamelessly pilfers from the original movie.
The performances in the film are great across the board. Emma Watson shows off some impressive pipes in her first major singing role as Belle and Dan Stevens brings his posh boy gravitas to a considerably less edgy Beast than we’ve seen before. Without question, though, the standout performer is Welshman Luke Evans, having an absolute ball as the conceited Gaston. His chemistry with Josh Gad as assistant LeFou – whose much-heralded “exclusively gay moment” is proper blink-and-you’ll-miss-it stuff – is an absolute delight and the film never tops their musical number together in a rowdy tavern. Evans pitches the character exactly right in order to ensure that he is utterly loathsome while remaining entertaining.
Beauty and the Beast does become something of a slog, though, when it tries to veer away from the animated movie on which it is based. The film adds huge swathes of back story for Belle and her family, which becomes especially awkward during one scene where an entire magical object is contrived into existence just to provide a scene of exposition and subsequently never mentioned again. Very few of the additions actually provide any added value to the film and just serve to make it longer. I don’t think anyone watched the original’s lean 90 minutes and begged for another half an hour of pointless exposition and the Beast warbling an entirely unnecessary and forgettable song.
Since it was released a few weeks ago, Beauty and the Beast has amassed a remarkable box office total and sits as comfortably the highest-grossing movie of 2017 to date. It’s easy to see why. Condon’s movie is a glossy crowd-pleaser that appeals to just about everyone – from little girls who are cheering in their seats wearing princess dresses to grandparents who appreciate the traditional fairytale feel of the whole thing. When the film works, it really comes alive, but it’s a considerably more bloated and inconsistent tale than its predecessor. There’s already a perfect version of Beauty and the Beast out there, so this one’s flaws are all the more obvious to see.
Pop or Poop?
Fans of fairytales, musicals and classic Disney will find plenty to enjoy in Beauty and the Beast, but there’s nothing to help it out of the shadow of its iconic predecessor. Of all of the Disney live-action remakes, this one might be the least necessary. For all of its fun and glamour, this tale might not last the test of time.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.