ReelBob: ‘Beauty and the Beast’

By Bob Bloom

I am conflicted by Disney’s semi-live-action “Beauty and the Beast” remake.

I enjoyed the movie, but, throughout, kept wondering why it was necessary to produce — especially in the direction the studio and director Bill Condon chose.

The movie is a very faithful adaptation of the Academy Award-nominated animated feature.

The film already has been adapted for Broadway.

So, again, why the necessity for a live-action version that basically copies the original?

The cynic in me harps that it’s simply another ploy to add gold to the studio coffers.

Ah, but the movie lover — the fan, if you wish — understands that this offers a new perspective on the old story to a new and younger generation of moviegoers.

Sure, they can watch the animated version at home, but seeing a rendition on the big screen with — for the most part — real actors is an exciting experience for youngsters.

And those are the audience members who were most affected by the film at the screening I attended.

The majority were amused by the CGI clock, drawer and candelabra, as well as mesmerized — and a bit frightened — by the Beast.

This live-action version does some tweaking with the original. The Beast (Dan Stevens) seems less ferocious and cuddlier.

And the antagonist, Gaston (Luke Evans), is more a villain than a buffoon.

The one constant is Belle (Emma Watson). She is as spunky, courageous, intelligent and compassionate as in the original.

Watson’s singing is merely adequate, which begs the question why, if making a musical, cast an actor who cannot carry the movie vocally?

The real magicians behind “Beauty and the Beast” are the CGI specialist, the production designer and the costumer.

They help give the film life and heft, making you believe that a desolate, cold castle once was a center for music and dance. They give distinct personalities to the castle’s cursed servants, who suffer along with their master, but keep optimism alive about the spell that binds them can be broken.

Some new songs — mostly forgettable — and characters have been added, but they are of little interest, except for the enchantress who masquerades throughout as a hag, closely watching the proceedings.

Josh Gad brings some quirky comedy relief as Le Fou, Gaston’s overly loyal companion.

Otherwise, this “Beauty and the Beast,” while displaying plenty of heart, seems hollow. At times, it plays like a Las Vegas version of a Broadway show, meant to dazzle the customers before chasing them back into the casino.

I suggest you hedge your bets by going to this remake with a child. A young person’s perspective will help you more thoroughly embrace the film.

Bob Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and Rottentomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at bobbloomjc@gmail.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
2½ stars out of 4
(PG), action violence, scary images

 

  • ReelBob

    So, how does this live-action adaptation stack up to the animated version? Let us know your thoughts here at ReelBob.