Directed by: Bill Condon
Written by: Stephen Chbosky & Evan Spiliotopoulos
Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad
Opportunities to remake films that had minimal initial success but an interesting idea present the chance to make something special with new voices present. Unfortunately, in this era of Walt Disney Studios, they take films that reached the pinnacle of animation and decided to cash in on making them live-action films. Beauty and the Beast serves as another reminder that these live-action remakes add nothing new and serve no purpose other than making more money.
Belle (Emma Watson) dreams of living in a bigger place after the folks in her small town look at her weirdly because of her love of books. After her father gets stuck in a castle ruled by a monstrous beast (Dan Stevens) she takes his place and learns about the curse placed upon this creature.
It’s quite baffling just how unnecessary this film turns out to be. It adds nearly an hour to the runtime of the original and adds information that serves to fill in what are perceived to be plot holes. The final product results in a grossly bloated product that only serves to diminish the iteration released in the 1990s. At this moment, the only live-action remake that has been worth the recreation remains to be Cinderella, which actually expanded the character of Prince Charming and his relationship with Cinderella. It makes the romance more believable and adds a sweetness to the story. Beauty and the Beast does not round out Belle or the Beast in any meaningful way. Instead it focuses on why people forget about the castle or why Belle happens to live in this small town. It’s such useless information that should not add nearly an hour but somehow still manages to do so.
These additions only raise concerns that seem to besmirch the original film and answer questions no one really cares to be answered. The fairytales that the Disney animated films covered had a magic that made things acceptable and even for their flaws, they knew to focus on the big picture rather than getting caught in the minutia of not leaving plot holes. This fascination led to this film’s severe drop in quality along with the horrid recreation of the furniture.
I sound like a broken record on this issue, much like I have mentioned in my reviews of the recent Aladdin and The Lion King, but the 2D animation of the originals captured a magic that should be kept in their styles. Trying to give a live-action recreation makes these gorgeous visuals look incredibly dull and it happened once again with this film when it came to the furniture characters. Instead of exhibiting personality, the animators had to mix trying to make these objects realistic while also allowing them to have life. The results showed a bunch of characters that make the castle a place one would only visit in their nightmares. All of it looks incredibly dull, especially when comparing it to the human character interacting with them. It sucks all of the charisma from a great character like Lumière (Ewan McGregor) and makes Cogsworth (Ian McKellen) look like an awful contraption. The worst of them all has to be the Beast and just how unspeakable that design looked. Bringing that look into the live-action was never going to look good, and that unholy union looked even worse.
It makes me feel bad for the voice actors, who tried their best with these characters. They took the mantle and tried to emulate the work done by the previous cast. This spectacular voice cast includes Stanley Tucci, Ewan McGregor, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Emma Thompson, and Ian McKellen. I personally believe that it should be a crime to waste this immense collection of talent on the most lifeless characters they could have created. They certainly did not deserve those ghastly recreations.
These princess movies center on the female protagonists and their casting is paramount to its success. As much as I appreciate Emma Watson as a person, it appears that she was miscast for this role. Not only could she not actually sing, as required by the role but her interpretation of Belle did not have the same level of inquisitiveness and wonder as her animated counterpart. Watson certainly gave it her all, but everything else around her needed to work perfectly in order to elevate her performance, but instead, it fell apart around her because of all of the plot holes the storytellers wanted to cover.
As cynical as I am towards these live-action remakes, Beauty and the Beast attempted to do more than some of the others in actually trying to add something of substance to the story. Unfortunately, they chose to highlight immaterial aspects of the story instead of amplifying the relationship between Belle and the Beast. Instead, it made what was once a beautifully succinct story into a bloated and ugly mess that squandered its excellent characters.