Friday, March 17, 2017

Movie Review: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (2017)

Beauty and the Beast (2017) is the latest live-action remake by Disney of one of its animated classics. Directed by Bill Condon, this film re-tells the tale as old as time about a beautiful girl being trapped in an enchanted castle and eventually falling in love with the cursed beast/prince within. The film stars Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, and Emma Thompson.

I had a really tough time thinking about and getting a handle on how to review this movie. It is relentlessly faithful to the animated feature while at the same time adding small tweaks here or there to extend the runtime, improve the film, or make it worse (that last part was likely not intentional). I certainly felt something positive for this film, but it felt simultaneously vacant. It has the heart and soul of a movie we all love, but doesn’t show why this needs to exist.

Beginning with the notable positives, Josh Gad and Luke Evans absolutely steal the show. These two define perfect casting and play their parts with total brilliance. They embody their characters from the animated version perfectly and supplement them with unique features they brought to the role performance-wise and from the slight changes made in the script for this movie. It is special when a casting lands perfectly and these definitely did.

On top of those performances, I think the musical numbers in the film largely worked. There was some annoying auto-tune (especially evident in Emma Watson’s parts) without question, but the way the numbers are performed and executed on screen are extremely effective. Moreover, I thought the build up to them largely wove them into the story well and they definitely served to give the final film a likability that would definitely be absent in a non-musical version.

Finally, I think the film had a really great grasp on the story it wanted to tell. It understands what made the animated film special and where that film faltered. One of my biggest complaints with the animated version was that you are never given a moment to breathe in its constantly proceeding narrative. This film, though not the strongest example of quality pacing in a film, learned from that and really leans into the emotional moments such that they feel exceedingly powerful and important. Though I knew the beat by beat run through of this movie, I had a more visceral emotional reaction to this version which I do think speaks to a certain effectiveness in Condon’s direction and the performers rendition in this version.

This film has some real issues, the most troubling being its inability to recognize when its faith on the animated film was misplaced. The most apparent area for that is the aesthetic. Much like Disney’s 2015 remake of Cinderella, the live action version is very colorful and clean like an animated fairy tale. In the animation medium, this feels natural and delightful, engaging your eyes in brilliant ways. In live action, it feels lifeless and sterile. Everything about the small provincial nineteenth century French village feels like a wonderfully clean sound stage and the film lacks any rough edges to speak of. The setting of the animated Beauty and the Beast really plays into the personality of that film and here it lacks any of that. Even in a brief scene where some majorly dark material is being addressed, the film lacks any dirt or grime and just lacks a basic sense of reality. This really took me out of the movie at times and raised some major eyebrows.

Additionally, as mentioned earlier, there is some annoying auto-tune and the music itself largely pales in comparison to the original. With the notable exceptions of the work done by Josh Gad and Luke Evans, every song is inferior to the original. Some more so than others, and never destructively so, but problematically when you have that reference as a point of comparison. If this were released in a vacuum, the musical quality of the film would not be high enough for these songs to have the memorability they garnered off of the animated version. Further, the very few new musical numbers added to the film were utterly forgettable and paled in comparison to the songs brought from the original.

Overall, I didn’t hate Beauty and the Beast but it really let me down. This is a film I had long been anticipating because of the quality of the cast and to see the original musical from my childhood transported to a live action world. The film didn’t really deliver in those aspects, but it had other significant bright spots and was generally enjoyable as a film.

Ryan’s Score: 6.5/10

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1 comment:

  1. I want to know WHO'S EGO it was that felt the need to change Belle into that white flowery dress and the beast into that intrusive aqua blue outfit in the final scene. WHY OH WHY CAN'T THEY LEAVE ORIGINAL CLOTHING ALONE!!!!!