This movie was a big deal all over the world. I remember being in Russia and hearing about its release. Honestly, I was not excited when I knew they would be making it. For those who know me the answer as to why is obvious. I love the original 1991 animated film. It is one of my favorite movies. I have written about it extensively and thoroughly admire its creators. (If you are interested, check out my review of the original.)
Now, I was afraid Disney would butcher this film like they did Sleeping Beauty (1959). Simply put, I dreaded the thought of if they misused and did not stay true to the original source material for the purpose of promoting modern ideas. Frankly, this tactic in film is not wise, ESPECIALLY when the original is so treasured. This was why I liked the new Cinderella (2015), because they did not destroy the original intent of the classic from which it derived.
I AVOIDED watching this new movie until it was clear I could not run anymore. So many people were asking if I had seen it yet. So I obliged them. I waited over a month to write this so any sour feelings I had wouldn’t cloud my judgment. Staying true to my new goal, I will be as positive as possible. I will try. REALLY I will try.
As in the original, the story takes place in France during the Baroque Era (1590-1750). It begins with a dance, a refreshingly French dance. Then, the Prince rejects a beggar woman at his door cruelly and is cursed to become a hideous beast. However, with this curse there is also a promise. “If he could learn to love another, and earn her love in return by the time the last petal fell, then the spell would be broken. If not, he would be doomed to remain a beast for all time.” The girl, Belle, who does help him break his curse is one who can see beyond his outward appearance to his soul.
It is a story we all know and understand because, I think, we all want to believe that love can change people. This is what makes this story so iconic. It is evidence of love’s power. Watching this movie I could see they stayed true to the intent of the original story by Marie Leprince de Beaumont. At least in the basest sense.
PLOT EXECUTION: 2.5/5
I will split this section into two parts: Things I liked and things I didn’t like.
- I liked the setting and atmosphere of the film. It was very true to the source material and refreshing. Truly and sincerely I knew it was a French story. They paid very close attention to details in history and style.
- Belle’s relationship with her father was very sweet. I could see they were close though there was a lot of pain which lingered because they lost her mother.
- It was nice how they included backstories to the characters like Beast and Belle to give them more depth. Scenes like in “Days in the Sun” where we could see Beast’s hard childhood and also Belle’s journey to her old home gave the movie color.
- I also liked the small love stories they added to the movie as well like Mrs. Potts’ reunion with her husband.
- Speaking of, it was nice how we knew why the village had no idea the castle existed.
Things I did not like. . . sigh. . .
- The story, for the first part of the movie especially, felt so slow. It lacked the energy of the animated film. At times it was frustrating.
- This movie had many hidden ideas and agendas which I felt were completely unnecessary and caused lots of problems with its execution. For example: 1. Making Belle so. . . feminist and victimized by “small minded” people. Really. She lacked the friendly relationship she had in the other film with those in her village. In fact, I felt she looked down on them, as they did her. The prejudice went two ways. They purposefully changed some of the villagers’ lines from the “Belle” from simple ignorant statements to blatant criticism. 2. Lefou. I don’t need to say much about this. It was obvious from the moment I heard Disney was making this movie that they were using one of their most iconic films to promote their stance on homosexuality and other issues. It was no accident they chose Beauty and the Beast for this. Subliminal messaging works best when using entertainment as a vehicle. ESPECIALLY movies for children. Be careful what you watch.
- Belle and Beast’s relationship did not progress and seem real until maybe. . . half way through the film. And even then. . . it did not have a spark.
- Again, the portrayal of the village. All I could think as I watched was a impersonation my sister Amanda did of them and Belle. Basically throughout the movie there was an underlying tone of “Belle! She is so weird!” and “Villagers! They are so mean!” Good grief. . .
- The transformation scene. I hated it. (Sorry this is a negative statement.)
Overall, this movie’s execution was flawed because they shifted from simply telling a story to subliminal writing. Really, this movie had so much wasted potential! There were very good parts in it I wished could have been explored more.
Honestly, they would have done much better if they had not focused so much on obviously showing this is a remake of the animated film. On its own, I don’t feel this movie will stand the tests of time.
There were characters I liked, did not much care for and . . . hated. Sadly though, there were none I truly connected with. I think this is because the actors for these characters were mostly chosen for their status in Hollywood. In animated films this happens at times. Loaded animated films have actors and actresses names written all over the movie posters. All the actors for this movie are really good at what they do! Some are iconic but in this movie. . . most don’t really fit.
Emma Watson as Belle did not deliver well for me. She was very childish and lacked the maturity and sincerity the voice actress Paige O’Hara added to Belle’s character. I did not. . . hate her. I just did not relate to her or care for her as I did for the original. Truly, I have always felt Belle and I were kindred spirits. I wrote in my review,
“Belle is the character that I identify with best out of all of Disney’s heroines. Unlike other Disney heroines, she was sophisticated and had grown into herself. . . Because she was so gentle, independent and intelligent, a marriage to a self-centered man like Gaston would have been torturous. She saw him for who he was and knew he would never appreciate her interests and dreams.”
So, I think much of Emma’s celebrity status rather than actual performance is what people love about her portrayal. (Sorry if this is mean!) Again, she is not horrid and goodness she is a good actress. I just did not like her in this movie.
Dan Stevens did a nice job as Beast, delivering more snobbery than anger than in the original. At first, I was frustrated with his character, but as the story progressed and I warmed up to his performance he became my favorite. Actually, I basically watched the movie for him. In the end when he got with Belle my sister Amanda and I cried, “You could do so much better! Don’t give in! Maybe you should date some more people before you make your choice.” Sorry Belle. . .
The moment of truth has arrived. Now his design. Well. . . . . . . . . . it was okay. I liked how they animated his eyes and horns but besides that. . . it was nothing spectacular.
Now for my least favorite character. Gaston. Luke Evans was good in The Hobbit film series (2012-2014) as Bard. But as Gaston. To put it bluntly, he was boring. Not very charismatic. Quite unremarkable. He did not have the presence and charisma of Richard White original. In fact, he had little to no presence in the village at all. When he was mean to Belle I actually thought he was pretty nice. Not at all manipulative and self centered. In the end, I actually thought. “Now why is he evil? Is he the villain or. . . what?” Summary, he had no depth of character.
Here are my overall feelings about the whole cast in general, the one prevailing thought I had was, “No! This is all wrong! That is not how the characters are supposed to be! Why isn’t Cogsworth funny? Where is Angela Lansbury? Lefou is not . . . this weird.” There was ONE exception. I liked Ewan McGregor as Lumier and thought his love story with Plumette played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw was sweet.
Much like its casting, the music did not deliver as it should. This is especially true with the remakes of the original songs. Much like the rest of the movie, the trouble with remaking an iconic musical score is. . . people inevitably compare it to its predecessor. Sometimes, the delivery is good. But here, the remakes were average at best. The best remake would have to be “Be Our Guest”. Ewan McGregor really was charming as he sang this song and the colors and effects were very well done. Other songs like “Beauty and the Beast”, “Belle”, “Gaston” (my least favorite), and “Something There” did not impress me.
BUT I did like the original songs they slipped into the movie like “Days in the Sun”, “How Does a Moment Last Forever”, and . . . “EVERMORE”. I LOOOOOOVED the Beast’s song. When he sang that song it was the one moment in the movie I really felt I was seeing something magical and up to par with the original.
The setting was absolutely gorgeous in places and I loved the small details in the artwork, architecture, and landscapes. The castle interior was especially impressive. Truly, with its elaborate details, colors and lighting was a visual feast for me. Art is one of my passions and this movie delivered some beautiful scenes. The costuming was also very well done, even if Belle’s regular dress confused me at times.
Now, the CGI effects. Sometimes, computer graphics enhance a story and bring to life otherwise impossible scenes. (example, Life of Pi (2012) )But there is another term for CGI. It is called animation. Computer animation has replaced 2D and clay animation which were used as visual effects in earlier film eras. There is one flaw in using CGI though. It takes away the overall magic from the animation itself. It disassociates the artistry of animation when put into the real world. Really, it would have been better if they fit the Beast in a costume. It is possible. There are some impressive makeup artists in the industry. As for the characters, I did like their designs but thought their coloring and execution were dull at times.
PERSONAL ENJOYMENT: 2.5/5
All I want is for someone to tell me a story. A simple story. I love the feeling of getting lost in beautiful films and picking them apart. Watching this new movie was truly frustrating.
I could not bring myself to like it. I hate being manipulated and was very aware of the many subliminal messages scattered throughout. Truly, it did not have the same energy and magic I remember from my childhood. The original movie is a masterpiece not because it is perfect. Perfection is not possible, especially with such a large project like an animated movie. It is a masterpiece because of its artistry. Because it speaks to us.
I have always like Roger Ebert’s take on the movie. He said,
“Beauty and the Beast” slipped around all my roadblocks and penetrated directly into my strongest childhood memories, in which animation looked more real than live-action features. Watching the movie, I found myself caught up in a direct and joyous way. I wasn’t reviewing an “animated film.” I was being told a story, I was hearing terrific music, and I was having fun.”
Art is always a very personal thing. So, when something we love is mistreated or butchered, as I feel Beauty and the Beast was, it is truly tragic. I was overall disappointed with how Disney treated the original in this remake in its characterization and underlying themes. I am not sure how others feel about it, but as for myself, I will not see it again. However, just because I didn’t like it doesn’t mean others will! So I would give it a try and see what you think.
OVERALL SCORE: 3.3/5
1.Belle: [to the servants, about the Beast] Why do you care about him so much?
Mrs. Potts: We’ve looked after him all his life.
Belle: But he’s cursed you somehow. Why? You did nothing.
Mrs. Potts: [ashamed] You’re quite right there, dear. You see, when the master lost his mother and his cruel father took that sweet, innocent lad and twisted him up to be just like him, we did nothing.
2. Belle: [reciting lines from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” as the Beast rests] “Love can transpose to form and dignity. Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind…”
Beast: [recites the rest of the line with her] “… and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.”
Belle: [surprised] You know Shakespeare.
Beast: [rolls over] I had an expensive education.
Belle: Actually, Romeo and Juliet’s my favorite play.
Beast: [groans exasperatedly] Ugh, why is that not a surprise?
Belle: [taken aback] I’m sorry?
Beast: Well, all that heartache, and pining, and…
[shudders and sticks out his tongue]
Beast: So many better things to read.
Belle: [shocked] Like what?
[Cut to the Beast leading Belle into the castle library]
Beast: Well, there are a couple of things in here you could start with…