The 1991 animated feature “Beauty and the Beast” was honored with an Academy Awards Best Picture nomination. Disney’s live action version released this weekend, though, will likely not get the same.
For those who’ve worn out their VHS copies of the animated flick, there aren’t too many surprises here. Like other renditions of the tale, “Beauty and the Beast” starts with some backstory about a selfish prince (Dan Stevens) who lives in a gigantic castle in France. Through some expanded backstory, though, his life takes a turn when an enchantress makes him into a monster.
The story then of course picks up with Belle (Emma Watson), who lives with her father Maurice (Kevin Kline) in a small village. As the tale goes, Belle wants adventure in the great wide somewhere and her wish is somewhat granted when she has to rescue her father who’s been taken prisoner by the Beast after taking a wrong turn. As a result, Belle takes her father’s place and over time, learns more about who the Beast really is.
Every adaptation will be different and changes are expected. However, when you make a movie that’s more or less just a recreation with a different style of filmmaking, comparisons are inevitable. With that in mind, one has to look at both “Beauty and the Beast” films and when one does, the animated picture comes out on top every time.
Every scene recreated never comes across as superior to its animated counterpart. A prime example of this is the scene where the library is introduced to Belle. In the animated version this moment was grandiose and delightful to watch, yet in this live action edition, it’s dull and underwhelming.
Even the dance sequence lacks the captivating magic that the animated film boasted.
Another issue that comes up with this live action feature is that the moments that are more original and weren’t featured in the animated picture feel like they’re just filling up space. These scenes are largely forgettable and simply feel like the movie is answering obvious questions that the audience may have had with the original or padding the picture’s runtime to a full two hours.
These mounting criticisms may give the impression that sitting through the 2017 “Beauty and the Beast” was a painful chore, yet that’s not really the case. For example, the movie is absolutely gorgeous to look at.
Everything from the village to the costumes and especially the setting are brought to life in visually stunning ways, making for a largely enjoyable watch. The effects of the Beast are also superb and the facial features make him look quite real.
There’s also plenty of pleasant moments between the Beast and Belle that are legitimately heartwarming. Some of the sequences they share with each other are very charming. Another problem arises, though, as many of these nice moments are the result of the direction and script and less from the actors themselves.
Watson, who’s a talented actress, is a bit hit or miss here. At some points her performance really works, her taking her father’s place, for example. Yet at others, during the “Be Our Guest” musical number, she doesn’t seem to have enough of a connection with the CGI characters.
Stevens is somewhat the same. His arrogance and temper are put on display well enough yet there are scenes when he’s played a little too gloomy in times when it wasn’t as needed. Neither of these performances were bad but it’s as if the tone was a bit off at times.
Fortunately, the flick is also backed up with some great voice acting from Ewan McGregor as Lumière, Ian McKellen as Cogsworth and Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts. Additionally, Luke Evans and Josh Gad have a lot of fun playing Gaston and LeFou. When they’re on screen the movie usually gets a jolt of energy.
Is the new “Beauty and the Beast” worth seeing? Sure, it looks great, features some nice acting and overall has some passionate romantic moments. However the movie also has its fair share of flaws and also fails to beat out its animated counterpart. A onetime matinee at the theater at most. 3 out of 5.