Movie review: 'Beauty and the Beast' is solid, faithful retelling By Michael Smith Tulsa World TulsaWorld.com | 0 comments. Both enchanting and nostalgic on its own terms, “Beauty and the Beast” comes to live-action realization as a faithful successor ...and more »
Both enchanting and nostalgic on its own terms, â€œBeauty and the Beastâ€ comes to live-action realization as a faithful successor to the original 1991 animated classic.
That movie was a breakout smash that combined some of the best hand-drawn animation that Disney ever created, mixed it with a bit of the upcoming computer-animated artistry of the time and built it Broadway-ready with sensational songs.
Director Bill Condon (â€œDreamgirlsâ€) has parlayed some very good casting, very little risk and the exceptional production design seen in â€œCinderellaâ€ and â€œMaleficentâ€ among Disneyâ€™s live-action remakes in recent years to fashion a fun film.
The original film was perfect, he and his team seem to be saying, so letâ€™s play it safe and not mess up this story of a young beauty imprisoned with a beast that she comes to love.
Mission accomplished; the film is almost purely imitative in style and demeanor, but then most people wouldnâ€™t have wanted a lot of changes or modern updates (though this does feature diversity nonexistent in the original).
In that sense, the new film doesnâ€™t dazzle in a way thatâ€™s going to make us forget the original, and part of that lies with the low-voltage performance of Emma Watson, who canâ€™t match the feisty Belle that Paige Oâ€™Hara voiced.
Her Belle is in charge of her destiny, but as Watson is herself an impressively empowered woman when it comes to gender equality, I would have expected a more energized, confident, memorable effort.
Sheâ€™s solid if unspectacular.
But anyone can appreciate her vocal confidence with her initial tune (â€œBelleâ€) that engages her French village in their bemusement with this â€œpeculiar girlâ€ to the degree that you may wish to shout out â€œBonjour!â€ to your neighbors in the theater.
Itâ€™s an exceptional opening, and it leads us into one of the filmâ€™s better elements: It deepens the mythology of the story, beginning with this idea that sheâ€™s not just simply odd because she wants to read, but because sheâ€™s independent.
Among the best casting is that of Luke Evans (â€œThe Girl on the Trainâ€) as the handsome meat-head Gaston, a narcissist of unmatched levels who plays up the camp-comedy factor in his pursuit of Belle, singing â€œIn this town there is only she, whoâ€™s as beautiful as me.â€
He creates solid laughs paired with sidekick LeFou, with Josh Gad playing the gay character thatâ€™s been played up way too much considering what happens, which is next to nothing.
There is also deeper context than in the animated film to the relationship between Belle and her father (Kevin Kline) that makes the concept of love â€” and especially the loss of it in oneâ€™s life â€” much more meaningful for their bond.
These â€œThat wasnâ€™t in the first filmâ€ moments work well almost uniformly, and I donâ€™t think many will disapprove of the added time despite this version â€” at 2 hours, 9 minutes â€” being about 40 minutes longer than the original.
Some may have issues with the CGI clothing worn by the Beast (the shape seems to evolve through the film) and his stiff movements.
But thereâ€™s good news: Exceptional makeup work allows Dan Stevens to be truly expressive in his facial demeanor as a man cursed with fur, a tail, horns and thick hooves.
There are four new songs here â€” and none of the songs that were added for the Broadway show â€” but itâ€™s always the classics that shine brightest.
â€œBe Our Guestâ€ is a showstopper from an outstanding Ewan McGregor as Lumiere, voicing the candelabra as he offers Belle a dancing array of menu options (again, without ever allowing her to eat).
The special effects are best with the look of Beastâ€™s servants, turned into furniture and accessories due to his curse, like the movements of Cogsworth the clock (Ian McKellen voices), Plumette the featherduster (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and the big-voiced Audra McDonald as the wardrobe.
As Mrs. Potts, the wonderful Emma Thompson is less than memorable here in her delivery of the title song, which sounds too much like an homage to Angela Lansburyâ€™s unforgettable turn.
â€œBeauty and the Beastâ€ is like that much of the time: Very solid and safe, but still sure to charm audiences of all ages, like those kids who fell in love with this story more than 25 years ago and who now will treat their own children.
Michael Smith918firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter: @michaelsmithTW
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