Beauty and the Beast is one of those stories that you just assume you know. Of course you know Beauty and the Beast, how could you not? Originally penned by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont as La Belle et la Bete (sounds so much better in French), there have been many movies before, and now we have this latest version from Disney.
It turns out, I didn’t really know the story, I mean, it’s not rocket science or the hardest thing in the world to guess, but I haven’t read it or seen an adaptation of it before. The story is fairly typically Disney, like it was wrote for them or something; mean-spirited prince has a spell cast on him, turns him into a beast and before all the petals fall from a rose he must make someone fall in love with him so he can turn back.
Emma Watson (Harry Potter series, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) plays Belle, the beauty in the story, with Dan Stevens (A Walk Among The Tombstones, Downton Abbey) as the beast. Both play their parts admirably with Watson such an obvious choice for the role given the strong character Belle is. Stevens doesn’t do much as himself but behind the CGI he does a good job, bringing beastly and happy to the, well, beast.
Luke Evans (Fast & Furious 6, Dracula Untold) plays Gaston, the supposedly handsome guy who wants Belle’s hand in marriage but seems more in love with himself. His ‘helper’ is LeFou, played by Josh Gad (Frozen, The Angry Birds Movie), who, had this been an animated movie, would have played the funny little sidekick such as, oh I don’t know, Olaf in Frozen…wait a second…
I struggle watching Evans at the best of times. He puts me on edge in pretty much everything I’ve seen him in. He always feels rushed, or maybe it’s uninterested or both, I can’t quite put my finger on it but I never feel comfortable when he’s on screen.
We also have the wonderful, though underused, Kevin Kline (My Old Lady, In & Out) as Maurice, Belle’s father. We also have Ewan McGregor, Sir Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Nathan Mack, Audra McDonald, Stanley Tucci and Gugu Mbatha-Raw who provide their voices to the various animated trinkets (clocks, candlesticks etc). They’re the ones who decide Belle is ‘the one’ and swing into action to put her with the Beast.
The good? Well the CGI and sets are wonderful and there are moments of comedy thrown in which is nice. The section of the film that works best is when Belle and the Beast are getting to know each other, when they begin to first fall in love.
Unfortunately, outside of this the movie feels overly-long, I felt a lot could have been left on the cutting room floor and wouldn’t have been missed. The songs, of which there are a lot, sometimes many in succession, grated. After seeing how well song, music and dance can be used in film (see La La Land), this feels woeful in comparison. I know they’re not aimed at the same audience or the same type of film but when you’ve seen how good it can be…
Having not read the originally tale I don’t know how much of the movie has been created under ‘artistic licence’ from writers Stephen Chbosky (Rent, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) and Evan Spiliotopoulos (Hercules, Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure). But some of it, particularly leading up to the ending, is clichéd and over used tripe, to put it mildly. Having said that, this is Disney, and apparently their ok to use that sort of thing so, whatever.
Directing this singing, CGI-fest is Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Mr. Holmes) and I can’t say he left me anything other than queasy. He twirls the camera like it’s a baton and some of the shots are just not very good, such as when the clocks, candlesticks etc turn back into people, it feels clunky and like they just couldn’t be bothered to think of a better way.
Overall I was left unimpressed with Beauty and the Beast. I liked the section when Belle and the Beast where falling in love, getting to know one and other, but wish it hadn’t felt so rushed when other parts of the movie felt so unnecessarily long. But hey, this is Disney, and you’ll watch it regardless so, be my guest.