No other animated Disney movie has captured audiences’ imaginations quite like Beauty and the Beast ever since its initial release back in 1991. Even now, there are many who regard this as one of, if not, the best Disney movie of all time, and it isn’t hard to see why as everything about that movie was perfect in every way. It told a timeless story that’s been around for years, whilst nailing everything else like the two titular main protagonists, the villain, the romance, the songs, and so on. It resonated with audiences’ young and old, and went on to become the first animated feature to get nominated for the ‘Best Picture’ category at the Oscars. However, with Disney on a winning streak for the last couple years thanks to their successful live action adaptations of Cinderella and The Jungle Book, it was only a matter of time before Beauty and the Beast would get the same treatment.
Ever since it was announced, this version has been the most highly-anticipated movie of this year in a lot of people’s minds and is perhaps Disney’s most ambitious project yet. As it stands now, this movie does a solid if slightly unremarkable job of delivering what the target audience was yearning for in terms of delivering a faithful adaptation whilst also adding in some minor tweaks to make it feel unique enough on its own without becoming just a carbon copy of the original. On the plus side, the story still works on its own and the characterisation is still spot-on, with Belle still acting like an independent role-model or Gaston still being the vain, arrogant rogue. From ‘Gaston’ to ‘Be Our Guest’, the songs are just as iconic as before, while the three notable new songs on display prove to be noteworthy additions to such a classic soundtrack. Plus, the cast involved all deliver superb performances, with particular standouts being Luke Evans’ surprisingly scene-stealing turn as Gaston, Josh Gad’s equally scene-stealing turn as La Fou and Kevin Kline as the lovable yet eccentric Maurice.
However, with the story, the casting choices, and the musical score/songs working, the real question that still persists is: Why doesn’t this stand out more? Ultimately, the core reason why is nothing to do with what’s been written down but more in terms of execution, and in the hands of Dreamgirls and Twilight: Breaking Dawn Parts 1 & 2 director Bill Condon, the end result on screen feels incredibly safe and ordinary as a result. There isn’t anything on the screen that feels theatrically or cinematically grand and epic, and it appears that Disney got cold feet and played it almost by-numbers. That is especially notable with the overuse of CGI on display here; unlike Cinderella where the VFX involved was used almost sparingly or The Jungle Book that hugely benefitted from its phenomenal photorealistic use of CGI, the CG used here feels very artificial from the sky, to the castle and to even the Beast himself, which did distract from Dan Stevens’ performance. Honestly, with enough time and money at their disposal, they really could’ve used practical effects to bring a lot of this to life surely?! Perhaps, if this movie was in the hands of a more seasoned filmmaker like Cinderella’s Kenneth Branagh, then this movie would be so much more than what it ended up being.
While this live action reimagining of the Disney classic isn’t terrible or mediocre by any stretch of the imagination, it isn’t exactly the masterpiece we were all expecting, especially given the fact that both Cinderella and The Jungle Book proved that the live action treatment could work if done correctly. The tale that’s old as time still works, the songs (old and new) work and the cast involved gives it their all, but given how Bill Condon’s execution feels very pedestrian and lacking in any ambitious creativity, it actually has you longing to watch the animated version. As it stands, this version is still an enjoyably solid watch, but it’s just not the ambitious masterpiece that it could’ve been.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: BILL CONDON / SCREENPLAY: STEPHEN CHBOSKY / STARRING: EMMA WATSON, DAN STEVENS, LUKE EVANS, EWAN MCGREGOR, IAN MCKELLEN, EMMA THOMPSON, JOSH GAD, STANLEY TUCCI, KEVIN KLINE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Expected rating: 9/10