Family Movie Review: Beauty and the Beast (PG)


Kernel Rating (out of 5): whole-popcorn-kernalwhole-popcorn-kernalwhole-popcorn-kernal (3 out of 5)

MPAA Rating: PG        Length: 129 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 8+. Most of the same elements of the animated original are rendered here again in this real-life adaptation: a pack of hungry wolves fight against the Beast (who looks more like a cat here than a buffalo); some kissing; Gaston is a smug creep who calls Belle “prey”; some flirting by village women with Gaston; mentions of characters who passed away from disease; a battle including gunshots, and a character dies from a long fall; and a moment where a male character seems to enjoy dressing in women’s clothes.

The latest Disney live-action remake, this time of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is a faithful, if somewhat lifeless, recreation. Some of the animated film’s best moments are delivered well, but mostly this version lacks zeal.

By Roxana Hadadi

BeautyAndTheBeast ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReviewThere is no question that Disney has hit a winning formula with their live-action remakes of animated originals; previous adaptations like “Cinderella” and “The Jungle Book” did remarkably well at the box office and made just enough differences from their original animated films to be uniquely memorable. But “Beauty and the Beast” feels, comparatively, somewhat lackluster.

Big moments from the animated film are recreated here, like “Be Our Guest,” but lack the zeal of the predecessor; all the iconography of the film is rendered here, including the cursed rose, but don’t offer up the same magic. There is something methodical about this “Beauty and the Beast” that keeps you from being truly drawn in, and so it ultimately feels more workmanlike than truly transformational.

The basics of the story are, of course, Disney canon, because Belle is such a popular princess: In a small provincial town in France, Belle (Emma Watson, of “The Bling Ring”), is considered odd for her passion for books, her desire to teach other girls how to read, and her overall disinterest in marriage. That refusal to buckle under society’s expectations and her understated beauty make her, to returning-from-war Captain Gaston (Luke Evans, of “Furious 7”), the “sweetest prey,” and he declares to loyal sidekick LeFou (Josh Gad, of “The Angry Birds Movie”), that he’ll marry her, even as she rejects him at every turn. The matter of force and of Belle not having a chance in her own future are, as in so many Disney films, obvious.

But Belle goes from one problematic situation to another when she learns that her father, Maurice (Kevin Kline, of “Ricki and the Flash”), has been taken prisoner at an enchanted castle, held hostage by the callous, furious Beast (Dan Stevens, of “Night at the Museum 3”). When Belle tricks her father into switching places with her, the similarly transformed castle staff hope that maybe the Beast and Belle will fall in love, breaking the spell that has cursed them for years. With only a few petals remaining on the Beast’s magic rose, they know their time is running out.

When the first trailer for “Beauty and the Beast” was released and people realized it was a shot-for-shot recreation of the teaser for the original film, the question was raised about whether the remake would be so faithful overall—and the answer is mostly yes. Certain scenes are remarkably similar, like Belle wandering through her town as the villagers sing about how odd they find her, and when the candelabra Lumière (voiced by Ewan McGregor, of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) leads the dishes, silverware, and other kitchen items through the entertaining “Be Our Guest.” Those scenes, although fundamentally unoriginal, effectively capture the spirit of the first film.

But there are changes here that don’t work so well: The 3D of the film makes everything dark and blurry, and certain scenes in the Beast’s castle are incredibly difficult to watch to because of the effect. There is backstory given for Belle and Beast to explain their missing parents that feels unnecessary and extremely thin; a line is inserted about how the townspeople hated the Beast when he used to be a prince and his family for how much they overly taxed them, the kind of throwaway detail that raises more questions than it answers.

And while some performances are pitch-perfect (like Gad as LaFou, with his delicate handling of Gaston’s absurdity, including retorts like “But she’s so well-read and you’re so athletically inclined”), there are others that don’t work quite as well, including the titular Watson and Stevens. The former never brings enough oomph to the role, neither seeming truly desperate and fearful in her initial interactions with the Beast or believably in love with him afterward (to be fair, the whole film takes place over five days, so the timeline here is ridiculous). And Stevens’s reactions are similarly muted, whether because of the CGI or just because he’s not that emotive; the Beast’s pain and loneliness don’t seem to run that deep.

Disney was going to make this live-action remake of “Beauty and the Beast” no matter what, and it’s guaranteed that this film will make an insane amount at the box office. But the unevenness of this recreation maintains the animated version’s status as one of the best Disney films of all time. This remake won’t have that distinction.

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