The following is a review of Beauty and the Beast – Directed by Bill Condon
I was born in the early 1990s, and, as a result, one of my first favorite movies was the animated ‘classic’ Disney’s Beauty and the Beast from 1991. My mom recently reminded me and my sister that we would watch it over and over again when we were kids, and my father seems to have become tired of the film as a result.
I still absolutely love the animated film, but, seeing as I’ve enjoyed both Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book remake and Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella remake, I was confident in Disney’s ability to remake another one of their most beloved films. Yet while I can say that I enjoyed this remake by Bill Condon, it does feel rather unnecessary and it doesn’t hold a candle to the animated classic.
Beauty and the Beast, of course, tells the story of Belle (played by Emma Watson) – a beautiful young woman, who is considered odd by the people that live in her village simply because she reads. When her father, Maurice (played by Kevin Kline), doesn’t return from his journey, Belle goes looking in the woods and finds a mysterious castle, wherein her father is held captive by the Beast (played by Dan Stevens) – a Prince that has been transformed by an enchantress.
Belle pleads with the Beast, and he agrees to hold her captive instead of her father. There, in his castle, she meets his transformed servants, and learns that they, including the Beast, will remain in their current form until the Beast finds true love. Meanwhile, Maurice gets the devilishly good-looking, but dimwitted and dangerous, Gaston (played by Luke Evans) to search for the Beast and to save Belle.
And let’s actually start the discussion with Luke Evans. No actor would be more perfect as Gaston. It almost feels like he was born to play the villain of this story. He plays the character perfectly, and his ‘right hand man’ LeFou (played by Josh Gad) is fun to watch as well. In fact, I think the big ‘Gaston’ song and dance musical number is one of the best scenes in the remake.
I think Kevin Kline adds a lot to Maurice, who feels completely different in this version of the story. This, I feel, is one of the best adjustments this version of the story makes. He isn’t the crazy old fool that the animated film made him look like. Emma Watson is fine as Belle, there’s an innocence that she adds to the iconic and assertive Disney ‘princess’ that felt right.
Dan Stevens – who I’ve been excited to see more of since seeing him in Adam Wingard’s The Guest – plays and voices the Beast (and the prince, of course), and I really liked what he brought to the film. Also, I was pretty shocked how right he looked when he wasn’t just a CGI character. He really did look like the prince we saw at the end of the animated classic.
As expected, the production design is gorgeous, and the costumes are equally stunning. It helps the film in really recapturing the magic of the original animated musical. Also, a couple of new songs are introduced in the Condon remake, and my favorite of these, by far, was ‘Evermore.’
However, this remake is also somewhat problematic. For one, the film stumbles in the opening, and tries to pick itself up off the ground quickly. After you get a little touch of the classic movie music – which did give me goosebumps – we get to see a bit of the Beast’s background (a scene that didn’t work for me), which has been expanded upon in this version of the story. Some of the scenes that expand on the characters’ backgrounds work, though. But the film definitely suffers from pacing issues. Really, that’s one of the biggest problems this film has.
Also, some of the singing sounds altered or processed, and the Beast just doesn’t look right at all, in my opinion. It just looks too fake. I don’t know if they maybe should’ve gone with practical effects over CGI, but something is just not right about it. Similarly, I don’t think all of the classic servant characters have the right look, and there’s something wrong about the way they move around. But maybe I’m just nitpicking a bit.
While Bill Condon’s remake does somewhat recapture the magical joy of the animated classic, I can’t help but feel that this version is really unnecessary. And I certainly don’t think there are enough breathtaking additions that will make you choose to rewatch this version, when we still have the animated classic from 1991. However, the new additions to the tale as old as time sometimes really work well (including some of the new songs), and Condon’s Beauty and the Beast is very enjoyable in spite of its issues.
7.5 out of 10
– Jeffrey Rex