By Adam Ray Palmer
Today’s review is another remake of a Disney classic. It seems like we write that sentence a lot lately. This time around, Beauty and the Beast gets the live-action nod.
Directed by Twilight’s Bill Condon, Beauty and the Beast stars Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Emma Thompson and Ewan McGregor.
With 2016’s Jungle Book being a huge hit, could the latest Disney reboot follow suit?
Beauty and the Beast begins with a prologue depicting how a prince who had everything became a beast who has nothing. A greedy, careless, party-loving French prince (Dan Stevens) refuses to help an old woman seeking shelter, so she transforms into an enchantress and places a curse on him. The prince becomes a bigfoot looking creature while his castle attendants become household objects like candelabras and a clock. A few years later, we meet Belle (Emma Watson), a smart bookworm who lives in a little village with her father just outside the woods where the castle is situated. Whilst she sings the movie’s opener, with the help of a voice synth I am sure, we meet arrogant war hero Gaston (Luke Evans) who wants to make Belle his wife, but she’s not interested.
Once the pleasantries of the big first number is complete, we see Maurice (Kevin Kline), Belle’s father, venture into the castle grounds when he gets lost in the woods. The Beast catches Maurice trying to steal a rose for Belle and imprisons him for the ‘crime’. Belle trades places with her ‘old fool of a father’ to begin life as the Beast’s captive. Meanwhile, the Beast's household staff -- led by candelabra Lumiere (Ewan McGregor), clock Cogsworth (Ian McKellen), and teakettle Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson) -- conspire to help Belle see their beastly master as something more... and possibly break the spell.
On paper, Emma Watson is 100% the correct actress for Belle. In reality, she underwhelmed me. In the musical scenes, Watson floated across the screen like you would imagine; if a little wooden. But when she had the more tender sequences, she seemed to over-act. For the whole runtime, everything had to be all or nothing. Sometimes, subtlety is the key. As this is perhaps more aimed at the youngsters, it makes sense why Emma took this route. But as an adult watching, it wound me up.
Stevens followed suit in the acting department. Don’t get me wrong, neither were terrible, they were just tedious. Where Beauty and the Beast prevails is in the ensemble. As the supporting cast like Lumiere (Ewan McGregor) and Cogsworth (Ian McKellen) don’t need to anchor the film, they get the fortunate role as scene stealers. The former two in particular are like a hilarious double act - Lumiere being the crowd pleaser.
Lumiere also provides the best scene in the film, just like the character did in the 1991 animated musical. The ‘Be Our Guest’ number is whimsical here with CGI being implemented to its optimum purpose. Not quite over-doing it but enough to wow the crowds – very Harry Potter-esque. This is also the first-time Ewan McGregor has sung on screen since Moulin Rouge; it’s like he’d never been away from the singing lark.
Perhaps because of The Jungle Book last year, the expectation was high for Beauty and the Beast. In terms of revenue, I can’t argue as at the time of writing this, it is just about to break a billion dollars. However, in the quality department, it has a fair amount to go until it reaches The Jungle Book (2016). Director Bill Condon tries his best with encouraging viewers to look beyond the superficial and to be compassionate and generous. Condon took care in making sure that this version had diverse supporting characters, including a homosexual LeFou (Josh Gad). LeFou’s bar scene is another highlight of the movie.
Overall, I think B&tB just fell short of expectation due to the quality of previous productions from Disney. Beauty and the Beast isn’t brilliant, but it isn’t bad either. The supporting cast, incredible costumes and set design and the ‘Be Our Guest’ number save it from being just another feature off the production line. To be fair, it doesn’t make a billion dollars for nothing I guess.
Cineroom’s Rating: 3 Stars
Beauty and the Beast is screening this weekend at the Phoenix Leicester – certificate PG