BEAUTY AND THE BEAST | REVIEW
I love a good musical, and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is one of the most superb things I have ever seen on stage. The animated version is also a movie that is beyond compare. Like all fantastic musicals they are reborn and have new incarnations as the years roll by. And the splendour that is Disney penned this to be one of their new live action reboots. If it can be told on the stage then it can be told on the screen. And you can all see BEAUTY AND THE BEAST at cinemas in Australia from Thurs 23rd March. It is rated PG and runs for 129mins.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST PLOT:
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST tells the tale of Belle, our Beauty and a Prince known as the Beast. The Beast was an arrogant prince in his youth thinking of nothing but himself and his vanity. The Prince, along with his court, is cursed by a beautiful and ugly witch to remain as a beast until someone loves him for more than his looks and title. There is an enchanted rose and the Beast must find love before the last petal falls from the rose or remain a beast forever.
Belle and her father are inventors and when Belle’s father is caught in a huge storm at night he seeks shelter in the beast’s castle. He is scared beyond his wits and flees but not before taking a beautiful rose from the gardens for Belle. He is caught by the Beast and held prisoner for his crime (probably a little harsh). His horse returns to Belle and eventually leads her to the castle where she exchanges herself to be imprisoned instead of her elder frail father.
Then there is Gaston, a vile vain man from Belle’s village who will do anything to be with the love of his life, Belle. Gaston represents the worst of society while looking incredibly beautiful. And the Beast, now learned from his isolation, is physically repulsive but with a heart of gold. Belle is the true innocent in the middle of this who can bring love and life to a tortured kingdom.
COMPARISONS ARE INEVITABLE:
Comparisons are inevitable, as are naysayers and people like myself, excited to see any new rendition. The animated Mrs Potts, Angela Lansbury herself, wasn’t too happy they were making a live-version. God knows why, hers was one of a few versions in itself, but ultimately the most loved. Paige O’Hara (the original voice of Belle in Beauty and the Beast (1991) and Susan Egan (who originated the role on Broadway) expressed their endorsement and approval of Watson as a live-action Belle.
In my comparison nothing comes close to seeing it on stage. My first viewings of it on stage saw Hugh Jackman and his understudy, Scott Irwan, in the role of Gaston and their performances will never be beaten. They were both magical and the abundant life, spark and joy have only ever come close in the animation. This 2017 version of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST admirably is an enjoyable rendition but in the real-life rehashes that Disney is rolling out does not compare in brilliance to THE JUNGLE BOOK. It lacks that magical spark. Don’t get me wrong, this is a fantastic movie and one that needs to be seen by the entire family.
WHAT THEY GOT RIGHT:
They got so much right in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. The sets win hands down, this film looks sublime. It was like Emma Watson was in another magical love-filled wing of Hogwarts. The songs they also got right. A little tear appeared on occasions when the songs hit those memorable parts that played with my heart.
They got Emma Watson as Belle perfect. For the first ten minutes I just couldn’t buy it, I was truly concerned. But then she got out of the village by herself, in what I will call the SOUND OF MUSIC song intro, and she hit those notes and NAILED IT. She had me enchanted from then. A friend of mine from a Canberra cinema mentioned the week prior to seeing this that she can’t stand Watson because of her over-acting eyebrows. And shaking fists at Lavanha – if I didn’t stare at her eyebrows for the entire movie! But it did not turn me off.
Every other actor nailed it besides one, who I will discuss later. But all the house items come to life were as magical as I remembered. Emma Thompson is one of my all time favourite actresses and I bow to anything she does. But in comparison, she can’t compete with the greatness that was Lansbury as Mrs Potts. Special mention to Dan Stevens as Beast, I loved everything about Beast. Originally Beast was going to be Ryan Gosling who turned it down to be in LA LA LAND. The odd thing is Emma Watson turned down LA LA LAND to be in this.
MORE THEY GOT RIGHT:
Bill Condon was an odd choice to direct but was chosen purely on his skill with DREAMGIRLS, surely it wasn’t TWILIGHT. I have to say he did a marvellous job in the end. It would have been an impossible task to try and beat the marvel from 1991 but what he did will introduce it to a new generation and we can’t ask for anything more than continuing this tale as old as time.
Finally, the music of Alan Menken, who returned to score this wonderful musical. His music was as good as the animation and it makes the movie.
The theatrical nods to campy theatre and, perhaps homosexuality, are just brilliant and had the cinema in hysterics. The stupid right-wing attention-seeking over-the-top propaganda of this in the U.S. with threats of boycott and cinemas refusing to play it is just ridiculous hate mongering from a bygone era and not something that belongs in modern society. Grow up idiots.
WHAT THEY GOT WRONG:
Sadly the movie felt a lot of the time to be style over substance. The success of the animation is in its pure simplicity and innocent heart. While certain improvements in this version of the tale improved the story the film lacked that magical heart that would have allowed it to soar. There isn’t that one thing that I can pin it down to. I am sure it is the subconscious comparison of the magic I have experienced in the musical and the animation but it just never hit that high magic I longed for. There are moments it gets incredibly close, the dance scene and the chemistry between Belle and Beast being the highlights.
There is one actor that surprisingly just didn’t do it for me and it floored me. Luke Evans felt incredibly flat and miscast as Gaston. A character so over the top and so vain it needed to be the comic relief of the movie but never got there. Sadly, I was blessed with the characters who played it on the stage and god knows why they didn’t get Hugh to play it in the movie!! It would have been an Oscar performance and given the movie that magical spark it needed.
It felt like Evans read the screenplay and never saw any of the previous versions. Evans gave 70% of the performance given by Jackman, Irwan, and even Richard White from the 1991 version. If you have seen nothing prior to this story you will love Evans’ performance but otherwise you may find it incredibly flat. Josh Gad, as LeFou, stole their scenes together.
This 2017 Disney live-action BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is about 80% there for me. Not as good as the musicals I have seen or the 1991 animation but it has so many amazing qualities that demand this be seen on the big screen. 80% of pure magic is still better than most movies. It is worth it for the songs alone and Watson and Stevens nailing their roles. Take the kids and your parents to this one, the more the merrier to be tapping along to BE OUR GUEST and the title song. Enjoy.
Jason King owns, writes and edits Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the Australian movie industry for 26yrs. Furthermore he loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. ** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.