Beauty and The Beast Review (2017)
A Tale Older Than Time.
I'll be honest this is the first Incarnation of beauty and the beast that I have seen. Seeing this film makes me want to go back and watch the Disney original.
So, how was it?!
It was good. Not great though. Let's dive in.
Let us get into the music first which was the best and not so great part of this film. I have nothing against musicals. I actually have grown fonder and fonder of them lately. My favorite thing that a musical can do is break reality by visually tearing down the rules and laws of the universe in which that film is contained. It helps to show the nature of a character or how they truly feel or think. There is one musical number that perfectly executes this "Be our Guest". I loved the way the scene flourished with elegance. It showed an attention to detail and finesse. All while breaking that reality with visuals that couldn't exist. On the other end, the other numbers weren't as well executed or magical, if you will. The other number I enjoyed was when they boasted of Gaston but it lacked that visual element. The rest of the numbers were average musical fare. They followed a simple routine of singing than more singers adding in than a huge routine. Not that they were bad, they just weren't memorable. Which is fine but I could see myself cutting at least 2 songs out of this film. The lazier numbers seemed forced and didn't do a great job showing character.
Belle and the beast
Another big complaint is for some reason I couldn't connect with Belle played by Emma Watson. I have nothing against her. Her performance, which wasn't terrible by any means fell flat with me. She seemed to be a blank vessel. I want to say it was the writing since she didn't have any moments that I cared for. Seeing Emma also felt like she was acting in a musical. It didn't feel like a film performance. It felt like I was watching her in a live play that happened to be filmed. It was like there was a shade of disbelief in her eyes when she tried to emote or interact with any of the cast. Maybe because of her recent theater work or because most of her cast-mates are CGI house-ware. Regardless, she in my eyes was the weakest of the cast. Which is disappointing considering she's the lead. The Beast did a better job. Even though 98% percent of his time on screen was only his voice. He made for a good voice actor and nailed what I imagined a beast to sound like. Neither Belle or Beast had a moment that I hoped to see. Their relationship wasn't bad it just never sold me. They had a few musical numbers together that played fine but it could of been better. The writing didn't give them much time to grow together. I would've loved to see a bigger dive into the literature loving aspect that they hinted at. They played the relationship simple and flew by points. They tried digging back into Belles history and her father's through flashbacks. I like the added depth attempt but they could've executed it better. They also gave the Beast a weird flashback of his mother also dying, which seemed arbitrary. He was a total jerk at the beginning regardless of his mother's death and what happened to his father again? They should've focused on his arrogance and obsession with beauty but failed to even mention it. We didn't see his evolution from jerk to nice at all.
Rounding out the rest of the live action cast was Gaston and LeFou (Luke Evans & Josh Gad), they did pretty good. Gaston played your typical jerk villain, LeFou did great being the clingy side kick. They had a great chemistry together and sold the relationship.
Cursed to serve
The CGI characters all did wonderful in the film, and cast wise definitely nailed their parts to the tee. Lumiere played by Ewan McGregor and Cogsworth played by Ian Mckellen especially felt solid. The CGI in the film is actually fantastic when it came to the house-ware none of the CGI was bad or distracting. I'm not gonna say I hated the beasts CGI because it wasn't bad. I just didn't like it as much as the rest of the house-ware. Plus I feel like the beast did a better job emoting than Emma Watson.....
The most expensive musical ever?
Sitting on a 160 million dollar budget this is the most expensive musical ever made. Which is visible in the film-making. Bill Condon did a great job directing the film. You can tell he loves the older Disney musicals of the yore. The direction on screen flourished with mannerisms and tendencies that only animations do. The camera pulls out showing an entire city of people singing. When beast is at his loneliest he climbs towers as the camera pans and floats up to him from window to window. The kitchen number floats with an elegance that only Disney animations have been able to master. There is definitely a talent of directing musical numbers here within bill. especially the "Be our guest" number that he knocked out of the park and also Gastons number was nicely shot. It felt very old Disney which is a fantastic thing to see visually.
Last few petals..
The set design and wardrobe was great to look at. The design was consistent throughout. You can tell Disney and crew pulled all the stops for this films production.
Beauty and the Beast aims high, trying to capture the magic of animated Disney fare of yore. It almost succeeds. The musical numbers vary from sub-par, decent, good, and to one that is a complete marvel to see and hear (Be my guest). Watson's belle felt flat to me. Her relationship with beast didn't sell me. The CGI cast was pitch perfect. The animation, production, and wardrobe department pulled all the stops to make it a wonder to see. The direction is clean. It leaned toward the traditional musical style of the technicolor age. Despite various shortcomings, the film as a whole is a easy recommendation to any fan of the original or of any Disney films. Hopefully, they will fund more musical incarnations like this.