A tale as old as time, Beauty and the Beast has returned to theaters in the form of a live action reboot by Disney. Disney animated films have been synonymous with childhood glee and enjoyment for as long as I can remember. I often spent days of my childhood enjoying Aladdin for the fifth time, along with Toy Story and many other classics. In a recent effort, Disney has been rebooting a few of their older titles into full live action remakes. We saw it a few years ago with Cinderella, most recently with The Jungle Book, and now Beauty and the Beast gets the same treatment. Does the change of film style warrant another journey into France, or is it stale and retreaded? Let’s hope that Disney can pull it off.
When it comes to the original, I don’t consider myself a huge fan of Beauty and the Beast. It was never on the top of my ever shifting pile of VHS tapes as a child, for whatever reason. Maybe I related to other classics like Mulan more, or maybe the music just didn’t resonate with me. For this reason, I was curious to see what kind of effect the reboot would have on me. As I sat down in the theater, I had almost zero expectations on what was to come. I had avoided trailers and clips online, and went in with only the animated original as a perspective.
Beauty and the Beast does a lot of things right, and a few things wrong. For starters, you won’t find any major changes to the source material here. The 2017 live action version stays pretty true to the original throughout its two hour and ten minute run time. I respected that quite a bit; Disney held back on the sometimes peculiar inclination to modernize their stories. What this means though, is that you won’t find any new sense of love for this story if you hadn’t felt it before. Long time fans will undoubtedly enjoy the new adventure, but people looking for a new and improved version will be left empty handed.
Besides being a bit underwhelmed by the whole experience, I had two major issues with Beauty and the Beast. The first is a bit small, more of a nitpick than a real problem. Emma Watson’s performance as Belle is very good, but her singing is oddly talkative. Combining that with the obvious use of auto tune on her voice made for sometimes disconnected bouts of song. The singing in the rest of the film is serviceable, and maybe the effect was only obvious on Belle. Second, I have a bit of a bone to pick on Beast’s appearance and the use of dark blues to hide it.
When we first meet the Beast, he’s guarded and hidden. We don’t get a full view of his monstrosity until a bit into the film. When he first showed up full face, I couldn’t help but be disappointed. Beauty and the Beast is a film about romance, and for a romance to work, I have to believe in the humanity between both characters. The original had a foot up, as both Belle and Beauty were cartoons. However, in this new adaptation, Beast looks like a somewhat decent CGI mock up of the character. His face, specifically, lacks the definition and quality that I’ve come to expect from Disney films. Specifically in comparison to The Jungle Book, and the amazing CGI work on display, Beast looks plastic and fake.
Thankfully, Dan Stevens does a fine job with the role of the Beast. I’m not sure if I would have preferred practical effects or a better CGI job, all I know is that the Beast looks a bit off to me. Dan Stevens is a great actor, and it’s hard to see him through the CGI. It ultimately hurts the chemistry and relationship between the two main characters, so much so that I couldn’t buy into the romance.
While these aspects of the film are important, it’s easy to forgive when the spectacle shows. I was particularly confused by Beast’s lack of quality when compared to the rest of the film. Beauty and the Beast is absolutely fantastic looking (disregarding the few complaints I’ve had). The set design and art direction are top notch, and the world feels realized and true. As a visual spectacle, Beauty and the Beast delivers. One of the key songs in the film, “Be Our Guest”, is a perfect representation of that. It’s something that is hard to put into words, but the mixture of colors, particle effects, and smart lighting makes scenes absolutely wonderful to view. This isn’t always the case, as many scenes in the castle are often a bit too dark to make out. However, the majority of the film is bright and exciting.
I was mostly impressed by the quality of the entire cast as an overall ensemble, rather than performance by performance. Lumiere (Ewan McGregor) and Cogsworth (Ian McKellen) are stand outs among the rest, providing a fresh take on the classic clock and candlestick duo. My favorite performance was that of LeFou (Josh Gad), sidekick to the pompous and mainly idiotic Gaston (Luke Evans). LeFou steals nearly every scene he’s in, and not in an obnoxious way. Josh Gad simply inhabits the character in such a natural and likable way. It was hard not to crack a smile at his appearances. Thanks to these stand out performances, Beauty and the Beast‘s characters were portrayed with taste and quality.
Movie Rating: 3 stars.
Movie Ratings Guide
1 Star = Unwatchable
2 Stars = Cannot Recommend
3 Stars = Would Watch Again
4 Stars = A Solid Movie
5 Stars = Must Own (DVD/Stream Download)
I'm a life long gamer and an overall media junkie. In addition to writing great articles like this, I host a gaming/comedy podcast called "Super Gamecast 64" available on iTunes and Stitcher. I also watch an unhealthy amount of movies, and try to spread as much love into the world as I can. Hope you enjoyed the content!