BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
Genre: Fantasy Musical
Running Time: 129 mins.
Premise: When her father is held prisoner in the Beast's castle, Belle (Emma Watson) volunteers to take his place and finds the castle and everyone living inside has been cursed by a witch. The handsome prince is now a hideous Beast (Dan Stevens), and the support staff have been turned into various household objects. Can Belle and the Beast fall in love and reverse the curse before it's too late?
Behind-the-Scenes: Disney has struck box office gold with these live action remakes of their beloved animated films. The original Beauty and the Beast came out in 1991, and was the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture. It remains the only traditionally animated film to be nominated for Best Picture (Toy Story 3 and Up were later nominated). Bill Condon is familiar with musicals, having previously directed 2006's Dreamgirls.
The Good: This a lush, handsomely mounted production, where the hundreds of millions spent clearly shows on screen. The cast - while not all the best singers - is uniformly excellent and each actor proves to be a good fit for their roles. The standouts are definitely Luke Evans as Gaston and Josh Gad as LeFou. They energize the film and bring a freshness to it. When the song "Gaston" kicks in after about 30 minutes, the movie finds its groove and never really lets up after that. The visual effects are great, infusing each of the inanimate objects with humanity and warmth. Stevens' Beast is an impressively executed motion capture performance - kudos to both actor and effects artists. The "Be Our Guest" sequence is a particular showstopping spectacle on the big screen.
The Bad: Watson settles nicely into the role once the focus is taken off her, but she struggles in early scenes, and so does the movie. It reminded me of one of those live television musicals that NBC and Fox are so fond of these days. Something was just off, especially in the opening "Belle" number. The songs (and singing) pale in comparison to the animated version. There are three new songs, but none of them are that memorable (I'll cop to somewhat enjoying the Beast's "Evermore" though). While it does deviate in some respects, this is largely just a rehash of the original film so there is very little surprise to any of it. Condon directs in workmanlike-style but doesn't contribute much in the way of flair or innovation.
Should You See It?: Sure. It's a solid family film that will please everyone to some degree, and offers enough bang for the buck to make a trip to the theater worthwhile.
Star Rating: ***1/2 out of 5 stars.
Better Than: Cinderella (2015), Maleficent (2014)
Worse Than: The Jungle Book (2016)
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