Sunday, September 10, 2017

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

It's been six months since I saw this movie, but I figured I should probably type out my thoughts while they were still in my head.This is the first movie of the year that was on my list of most anticipated films of 2017, and man was I looking forward to Beauty and the Beast. The original animated movie holds such a special place in my heart that I was both eager and a bit uncertain about the live-action adaptation. There was a good chance they would continue with their excellent track record of late with Cinderella and The Jungle Book, but they could also fall back into Maleficent territory. Would they use this as an opportunity to expand on the story, or would it be a shot-for-shot remake of the Academy Award-nominated original?

Well, a little of both. Some parts of this movie are translated directly from the cartoon, and a lot of that has to do with the on-the-nose casting. Luke Evans completely steals the show as the arrogant and unintentionally comedic Gaston, and Emma Watson does a great job of portraying the humanity and the courage of Belle that was done so strongly in the original movie. Despite the seemingly perfect casting of Josh Gad as Lafou, however, I found his performance to be a bit underwhelming. For how goofy and cartoonish he can be, I felt he was far more subdued than his character deserved. Not only that, but his character was a bit too sympathetic for my taste.

Despite my love for the original film, I found that my favorite parts of this live-action retelling were the additional scenes of backstory telling us about Belle's mother and how they came to this "provincial life". Unfortunately, it felt like the rest of the film was a slightly watered down version of what we'd already seen. The characters weren't as fresh as their animated incarnations, and the drama wasn't quite as compelling as one would hope such a "tale as old as time" to be. 

However, what they lack in originality and plot intrigue they mostly make up for with production design and visual spectacle. The manner in which they brought this story to life was truly wondrous to behold on the big screen, even if some of the characters weren't as anthropomorphized as I would have liked. The beast's design took a little getting used to, but I didn't have a problem with the changes they made to his appearance. His movements were smooth and natural looking, for the most part, and I think Dan Stevens did a great job of conveying both sides of his personality.

Overall, I can't deny that I was somewhat disappointed with the movie. I haven't been that impressed with director Bill Condon in general, and this did nothing to change my mind. The performances and the technical achievements were really what pulled this over the line into a positive review, but without those I would have been pretty infuriated with what Disney had done to this beloved animated classic. From what I've gathered, my opinion is fairly controversial (even if my star rating seems to contradict that), and I hope others were able to get more out of this film than I did. For me, however, I thought this movie was just okay. It definitely didn't reach my expectations, and there's a reason why I still haven't bought it on Blu Ray. I give Beauty and the Beast a slightly generous 3 stars.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is rated PG for some action violence, peril and frightening images