article by Connor Behrens for ArtsEarth
Release Date: March 17, 2017 (USA)
Director Bill Condon’s latest film is a romantic fantasy musical film based on the 1991 animated classic, “Beauty and the Beast.”
“Beauty and the Beast” retells the classic story of Belle, an insightful, intelligent and strong young woman who is captured by the monstrous Beast and held captive in his intimidating castle. Despite Belle’s initial fears, she slowly helps and becomes friends with the castle’s cursed staff and learns to look past the Beast’s appearance to discover the soul and emotion that dwells deep within his buried heart.
“Beauty and the Beast” continues Disney’s latest trend of releasing live-action remakes of their animated classics. The film follows in the footsteps of last year’s “The Jungle Book” and 2015’s “Cinderella.” For the most part, “Beauty and the Beast” is a fine retelling of the animated film that spawned a Broadway musical and numerous awards.
The film’s chief asset is its faithfulness to the 1991 original. “Beauty and the Beast” succeeds because it realizes the strengths of the original and plays off those strengths. Director Bill Condon revitalizes the iconic musical numbers and spellbinding visuals from the animated original and focuses on the alluring nature of the story.
The story in this modern retelling is not changed dramatically for its live-action medium. Belle discovers the true nature of the Beast, falls in love and lives happily ever after. The film’s enjoyment is not due to the nature of the story, but the road travelled. Condon makes sure to overtly convey the film’s tone and themes in a lighthearted nature with a magical lens.
What helps the dreamlike nature of “Beauty and the Beast” is the cast. Emma Watson naturally fits the independent role of Belle. Watson takes what she’s learned since her early days from the “Harry Potter” franchise and creates a performance that’s wide-eyed and innocent. She portrays the character’s heart with finesse and makes the audience care about her feelings for the Beast by the epic finale.
Speaking of the Beast, Dan Stevens has a hard job of delivering his character mostly through visual effects. Stevens is featured in the beginning and ending, but the majority of his performance is through a CGI creation. Stevens manages to create an emphatic and ultimately charming representation of the Beast. Watson and Stevens are fine together, creating an adequate and lovable duo by the film’s third act.
For all the spectacle and faithfulness to the original, “Beauty and the Beast” does faintly feel safe in terms of implementation. Yes, changes are made to the story (LaFou is made gay), but the film’s story still feels traditional. Likewise, audiences witnessed groundbreaking motion capture in last year’s “The Jungle Book.” And while Stevens’ motion capture is convincing, it’s nothing that exceedingly strives to be innovative in its execution.
Overall, “Beauty and the Beast” is a more than satisfactory retelling of the animated classic that mixes mythical visuals with a charismatic tone that’s sure to delight fans. The film will certainly continue Disney’s trend of live-action remakes. “The Little Mermaid” should be interesting.