Monday, April 3, 2017

Movie Review: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (2017)

Belle (Emma Watson) is a...yeah probably no need for a plot synopsis since this is the tale as old as time and it would just bore the hell out of any reader. So lets just get to it. Beauty and the Beast is the live action Disney remake that comes 26 years after the gorgeous animated feature.

I am not only fine with, but encourage the retelling of classical tales in any kind of medium. It has been done since the dawn of humanity and I see no problem in doing so as long as there is always something new to add to these stories and some fresh silver lining to find in our characters. Going into this I must admit that I was very frightened of being treated to a shot-for-shot remake that I would have enjoyed only because of charm and would have felt embarrassed about it.

Whilst there is treading of familiar grounds, I was so pleasantly surprised to see what a great, touching and progressive modern take Disney was able to stamp on it. I am a big fan of the animated feature. The story is really universal and whilst this entry does not touch the emotional heights and the charm of the original, it offers a reminder of what a flawless piece of storytelling this is and it graces us with a good enough touch that managed to get me to genuinely enjoy reliving this story one more time in a different way.

Whilst the songs might be the same, they are always so fantastically entertaining on their own. Bill Condon builds on that and assembles a series of flashy musical numbers that all live beautifully on screen. There is no fast cutting, the editing decisions in these pieces are always warranted and the filmmakers manage to strike a perfect balance of seeing everything unfold on screen and using the editing to enhance the music. There are also a couple on updated or new musical numbers and it was a great sign that they flowed with the picture fluently, they felt genuine and didn't play as a forced new addition.

Of course the real spearhead of this production is its incredible cast, and what can one say that the list of names here cannot already do on its own. It is just pure glee, there isn't one half of a bad casting decision, everybody not only fits their role, but does the perfect amount of updating and nuance to make you buy into them as soon as they appear on screen. Luke Evans was definitely the highlight for me. He brought Gaston to the screen in all of his ridiculousness and irony. It was a pleasure to see and was the high point of comedy in an already strongly funny film.

Another magical strength of the film is its CGI. There are a couple of green screens that got under my skin because of their blatant notability, especially considering how excellent the rest of the VFX were. This was really state of the art work. I literally could not tell who all of the animated characters were apart from the live action ones, it was completely seamless in a way that I think we've never seen done this good before. The question never came up, there was not a single false beat, they were absolutely perfect.

However, what might be the very best part of this update is just how modern it is. No, not only because of a gay character, which still is such a fantastic addition because of how brilliantly they manage to weave it into the story and adapt it into a fairy tale character. There's much more here, many genre conventions are broken, many male/female stereotypes are purposefully bent and turned on their heads, there is diversity and it so beautiful to see such an iconic story get an adaptation that is a better representation of the human race.

Yes, there is no denying some of the ground treaded is very familiar and I am the first to say that there still is some space for change in this story, there still are a couple of plot points that can be updated and because of how modern the take overall is I felt like some events and minor character dynamics could have had a little polishing. Technically too the film has some moments of disjointed editing and it could have done with a little more cutting. Don't mistake me, the two hours never drag, but they do feel kind of unnecessary by the end, a five to ten minute tightening could have done the job.

I was initially a little cold on this film, but after realizing just how much I enjoyed it, how it actually got to me on an emotional level by the end and how charmed I was by the characters and their new iterations, I have to admit that I would be happily up to rewatching the film which was something I was doubting going in. I bumped up the score a little because of this, I hope that a further viewing confirms my feelings on this.

James' Score: 8/10

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