Review: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (2017) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 14 March 2017



BEAUTY AND THE BEAST tells a story about a young prince (Dan Stevens) who is transformed into a beast after being cursed by an enchantress Agathe (Hattie Morahan) for his cruelty. In order to break the spell, his only chance is to learn how to love someone and be loved in return before the last petal of the enchanted rose fell. The person in question turns out to be Belle (Emma Watson), a bookish girl who agrees to be held as Beast's prisoner in his castle in exchange for her father's (Kevin Kline) freedom after plucking the rose illegally from the garden. As Belle gets to know the Beast better, she discovers he is actually a gentle soul beneath his tough exterior.

REVIEW: Over the past two years, Disney has been doing a good job reviving their animated classics into live-action versions including CINDERELLA (2015) and THE JUNGLE BOOK (2016) with varying degrees of success. This year, The Mouse House is back with yet another live-action adaptation of a beloved animated classic and the latest one happens to be BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. If you recall the 1991 animated classic of the same name, it was the first animated feature in the Oscar history to receive a Best Picture nomination. A massive hit with both critics and audiences around the world, the 1991 version has since becoming one of the most iconic animated features ever made in the modern era.

So, it comes to no surprise that director Bill Condon has a huge undertaking for this live-action remake of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. Like the 1991 version, Condon and his screenwriting duo -- Stephen Chbosky (2012's THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER) and Evan Spiliotopoulos (2016's THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER'S WAR) -- slavishly follow the same story beat that most of us already familiar with. Except with some significant differences: the movie is noticeably longer than the animated version alongside the inclusion of three new songs, a backstory related to Belle's deceased mother and the much-ballyhooed first gay character in a Disney movie. The gay character, of course, refers to the Josh Gad's LeFou, a bumbling sidekick who served alongside Gaston (Luke Evans).


But for all the extra scenes featured in this movie, it brings little improvement to the already-effective outcome previously seen in the 1991 version. Instead, the additional length only burdened the movie with an unnecessarily sluggish pace.

Then comes a few huge problems that dampened most of the movie's quality. There are little sparks in the chemistry between Emma Watson and Dan Stevens. Individually speaking, Watson is miscast as the titular Beauty a.k.a. Belle. Her singing voice is flat, which in turn, fails to convey her feelings to a subtle level of emotional heights. As Beast, Dan Stevens' acting is buried under the mostly unconvincing and shoddy CGI furry makeup. His motion-capture performance comes across as stiff and sometimes lifeless. Frankly, it's a shame to see the 2D animation of the Beast character in the 1991 version is far more expressive by comparison. Kevin Kline is largely wasted here as Belle's father.

As for the tweak of transforming LeFou from straight to a gay character, there is actually little need for Condon and his screenwriting team to do so. Besides, the inclusion of a gay character here is nothing more than a superficial gimmick just for the sake of being socially relevant and diverse in terms of gender introduction. But viewing Josh Gad strictly as a comic relief, he does manage to provide some decent laughs.


Despite most of the shortcomings in the movie, Condon's live-action take on BEAUTY AND THE BEAST isn't entirely a creative failure. The supporting performances, mainly on the talking antiques brought to vivid life by seamless CGI effects, are given enough rooms to make their respective characters worthwhile. That includes Ewan McGregor as the candelabra Lumière, Sir Ian McKellen as the clock Cogsworth, Stanley Tucci as the piano Cadenza, Emma Thompson as the teapot Mrs. Potts, Nathan Mack as the teacup Chip, Audra McDonald as the wardrobe Madame de Garderobe, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as the feather duster Babette. The normally-serious Luke Evans, in the meantime, is adequate enough playing a lightweight role for a change as Gaston.

The overall production values, ranging from the sets to costumes are all lavish while the upbeat rendition of "Be Our Guest" song during the dining sequence is particularly a showstopper.

For all the lush production values and a few decent supporting roles, Bill Condon's live-action version of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST lacks a strong emotion while the two titular characters are disappointingly lacklustre.

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