“Beauty and the Beast” Film Review #2: Lots of Beauty, but Imperfect in Adaptation

Image courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

Hello, readers! This is my first review EVER, so I hope you like it, even if you don’t agree with my opinions on the film! Let’s jump right into it.

When Beauty and the Beast was first announced, I was very excited to see the movie. I was a big fan of the live-action “Alice and Wonderland”, “Maleficent”, and the “Cinderella” remake (especially the last one). I liked “The Jungle Book” remake, didn’t love it, but that wasn’t enough to deter me from wanting to see more of Disney’s remakes.

At last, I saw “Beauty and the Beast” this afternoon with my fiancee, after months of anticipation. The short version of how this story ends is that I liked it, but it certainly is middle-tier in terms of filmmaking. Not amazing, but not bad either.

The first thing that you have to talk-about with the film is the songs, since “Beauty and the Beast” is, first and foremost, a musical film. The original ballads are all there, and the cast does a respectable job recreating these moments, in particular the visually-resplendent “Be Our Guest”, a respectful translation of “Beauty and the Beast”, and the bombastic/fantastic “Gaston”, which for me was the personal highlight of the film. I liked the new songs, but none of them are particularly memorable, except for “Evermore”, which is the Beast’s new solo. I was actually blown-away by this song in particular. “Evermore” is not just a respectable addition to the film, it is a powerful one. I truly felt the loss and the melancholy and the love when the Beast let loose on this one, and it was one of the best moments in the picture. I personally don’t understand the hate towards it — I loved it. Afterwards I happily downloaded it and forked over my $1.29 on iTunes to try and attempt to sing along (I also did the same for “Gaston”). Truly, the music is still a marvel to hear, and that is a reason in-and-of-itself to go. Speaking of music, the sound is mixed to perfection, and I think that, if the film were a stronger Oscar candidate, it could get solid, well-deserved nods both in the sound mixing and sound editing categories, as there are some pretty great sound effects created in the film.

The film is also visually luscious in every way. I personally liked the production design - not perfect, but still gorgeous and it’s definitely an Oscar contender for the year. The costumes, however, are amazing. Disney has picked some amazing costume designers for their recent films, and Beauty is no exception. Every costume is well-done, from the ugliest to the brightest, and the makeup and hair that go with it is pretty great too. The visual effects mostly succeed, but became excessive in certain set pieces (“Be Our Guest” was a little much, despite how much I enjoyed the sequence). The VFX really did succeed with bringing the Beast to life, as well as our favorite household objects. Nowhere near as good as The Jungle Book, but definitely a cut above the attempts on Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent.

Overall, the cast we are given is good. But it’s not the strongest ensemble Disney has put together. Emma Watson does a respectable job as Belle, and it’s something to add to her resume. It’s not among her best performances, and her singing was good, but not amazing, but that’s okay, because it’s still wonderful watching her work. Watson is a talented actress (far more talented than I), and she has yet to disappoint. Dan Stevens does well as the Beast, and the fact that he can sing impressed me. Kevin Kline’s Maurice is underutilized, but he gives a really nice portrayal of a role that, in my opinion, was gutted and made less effective than the animated counterpart. The household objects all perform well-enough, but aren’t given enough to do sometimes, apart from Mrs. Potts (a wonderful Emma Thompson), Cogsworth (Ian McKellen), and Lumiere (Ewan McGregor, trying his hardest with a French accent, but is earnest and mostly succeeds), but of course, they’re not the focus of the film.

Luke Evans as Gaston and Josh Gad as LeFou are both so great that they deserve their own paragraph. Luke Evans is absolutely amazing — he’s by far the best performer in the film and really nails down the douchebag character that Gaston really is. He takes it, runs with it, and creates a hilarious and sometimes menacing portrayal of one of the most memorable villains in the Disney canon. A true breakout. Oh, and he’s a fantastic singer. Josh Gad isn’t far behind — he’s just downright hilarious, and far funnier than the 1991 animated version. The best moments of the film often come from the interplay between the two. Maybe Disney should make a “Gaston” film?

The adaptation doesn’t always work, however. Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos try hard to put their own twist on the material, but I really disagree with the changes to Maurice’s character (formerly an inventor, now an artist) because it kind of ruins part of the original plot where Maurice is actually more eccentric and they try to use that to throw him in the asylum to get Belle to marry Gaston, rather than adding in an attempted murder accusation and then trying to force Belle to marry Gaston to get him released after that. It just didn’t work. The film also adds a little on Belle’s mother and the Beast’s parents, but it feels just thrown in, and the Beast’s parents aren’t even revisited. The adaptation adds in too much that it barely uses, and the first two-thirds of the film sometimes drag because of it. Bill Condon’s direction is solid and respectful of the source material, but I feel like both that he could have added more of a flair to the film to make it his own, and that he didn’t always make the best directorial choices. For example, he didn’t really seem to know what to always do with the camera, sometimes lingering too long on a performer a la Les Miserables-style, but I digress.

I think that “Beauty and the Beast” is worth watching, particularly if you’re a musical person, or a fan of the animated classic. If you like the 1991 version too much, however, you may be wishing for more.

My grades:

A to F scale: B

Star Scale of 4: ***