Beauty and the Beast. A Review
1991 was a big year, it was the last year of the Cold War, it is the year of my birth, and the animated classic Beauty and the Beast was released by Walt Disney Feature Animation. Beauty and the Beast while not the first film of the Disney Renascence, is possibly the most important and beloved. It was the first animated movie nominated for Best Picture( Up and Toy Story 3 have since accomplished the feat) and even won the Golden Globe for Best Picture-Musical or Comedy. The legacy of Beauty and the Beast speaks for itself and oh boy does it stand the test of time. As far as Disney movies go I think my love for Beauty and the Beast is only bested by The Lion King released just 3 years later. The remake does not take anything away from the original movie, it just does a poor job of bringing the source material into the 2017 movie landscape. I wanted to see some innovation, but also a story true to the source material and while we get more of the latter than the former this story has never been so.....boring.
The plot does not change much from the 1991 version, Belle is still the weird girl in town because she likes reading? I have never really understood that one but lets movie on. Her father heads to town that for some reason takes him past a big scary castle and for one reason or another he gets imprisoned there by what can only be described as a "Beast". Belle dodges attempts to be wooed by Gaston and other such meninists and heads out to save her father and ends up getting imprisoned in the castle herself. We all know the steps and the filmmakers know them as well, which is why some shake up would be appreciated. Other than a few changes to songs and some later plot points we don't really get any sort of originality here. When they do it ends up being shallow and dissatisfying. I was hoping the advancements in digital effects would provide a new lens for us to look at this story through, and really other than the "Be Our Guest" sequence there is not much to be excited visually about.
Beauty and the Beast sports quite cast, although most of the biggest names play voices of everyone's favorite anthropomorphic run of the mill castle objects. Ewan McGregor and Ian Mckellen play Lumière and Cogsworth respectively and are possibly the best part of the whole movie. They were always my favorite characters so maybe I am biased but the chemistry between them was the highlight for me. The rest of the household objects are rounded out by strong performances from Hollywood legends Emma Thompson and Stanley "The Tuch" Tucci among others, and like Lumière and Cogsworth collectively were easily the most enjoyable part of the movie. Emma Watson stars as Belle and honestly feels lost for a lot of the movie. The slow pace and spotty writing don't help her, but there are too many times when she does not interact or react to the CGi well. This surprised me with her experience in the Harry Potter franchise although she has been more of an indie darling as of late. I have problems with Gaston and LeFou, they are not the fault of Luke Evans or Josh Gad as they fit the parts well.
There was a word that continued to ring in my head through the inexplicable two hour and nine minute run time, 43 minutes longer than the 1991 version, and that word was lazy. The musical numbers were uninspired, the choreography looked like they came up with it at the last second. The writers wanted to shove a bit of a feminist message in there which basically gets thrown away in the third act and when they do get the message in there it is sloppy. Gaston for all his faults is nowhere near as fun as he was in the original, and in some ways is in the right. The Beast is well, a big scary monster who imprisoned two people, being that this is all Gaston has to go on its not all that crazy for him to want to do something about it. Speaking of the Beast, this one was entirely forgettable. The CGI led to a disconnect and I never really felt anything for the character. So the Beauty is dull and boring and the Beast is forgettable, this is not good movie math. Le Fou is the one character that they took a chance with, and honestly it is more awkward than interesting. When I was not cringing I was rolling my eyes, I can respect the attempt but it felt more like exploitation than progress.
This movie bored the socks off of me. I was trying to find things to grasp onto to turn the tide and make me like it, but that never came. I was welcomed with disappointment and again more boredom. Like I said before this adaptation does not negatively effect the 1991 version but it makes me concerned about the impending remakes that we are getting shoved down our throats. The Jungle Book remake was so much better than I expected that I maybe got my expectations a little too high for this one but The Jungle Book had so many things that Beauty and the Beast does not. The CGI in The Jungle Book was absolutely amazing, maybe the best I have ever seen. Beauty and the Beast falls far short of that and even in 3D felt dated. I'm sure plenty of people will enjoy this adaptation, and to each their own but I cannot stand by it. With more time and a stronger vision I think it could have been pretty good, but to be fair Bill Condon said before he became involved it was not going to be a musical so I think the poor man did all he could.