As a new way to add to their already impressive line-up of computer animated films, Pixar movies, Star Wars projects and Marvel universe films, Disney has been adding to their growing franchises by making live action updates of all their classic and traditional hand-drawn animated film. While we have had some great ones, with the high bar being set by Cinderella, we’ve also hit some lows with Alice In Wonderland and Maleficent, the former being far worse than the latter. The latest in this push is possibly one of their most beloved films of all time, Beauty And The Beast, one that was also the first film ever to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. So, the new treatment of a live action version has to be the best they’ve ever put out, right? I really wish that was the case.
If there’s anyone who doesn’t know what Beauty And The Beast is all about, the story follows a woman in a small village in France named Belle (Emma Watson). Living with her eccentric father (Kevin Kline), Belle always has her nose buried in a book and, for this reason, is regarded as a peculiar girl. Despite her peculiarity, she regularly finds herself turning down the advances of the dashing and arrogant hunter, Gaston (Luke Evans). When Belle’s father heads into the forest on a trip, he comes across a dark castle after being run off the path by a pack of wolves. As well as finding that the house is inhabited by inanimate objects imbued with personality of the house servants, he comes across the owner and master of the castle, the Beast (Dan Stevens), who locks him away. Frantically searching for her father, Belle finds the castle as well and trades herself for her father, setting him free. As time passes, Belle and the Beast start to soften towards each other and there becomes a possibility that the two could fall in love and break the spell that was put on him and his people.
For the kids and fans with an undying love for the 1991 original, Beauty And The Beast will delight them to no end. Seeing Belle run up the country hillside for her big moment in the song “Provincial Life” is a beautiful recreation, as are many other moments throughout the film. This, for me, is where the problem lies in the film. It seems to not have any real draw in the new live action format but relies on the charm and charisma of the original. We get a small handful of new songs peppered in but none of them hold a candle to the songs we have been loving for over twenty-five years. It honestly just feels like Disney rolling out the hits.
This review sounds like I disliked the movie, which isn’t really the case. Bill Condon does a great job to make the film feel like a sweeping homage to a classic that was a formative story to my generation and Emma Watson can finally get out of the shadow of Hermoine Granger and be recognized in a new light as Belle. The story is also able to flesh out more exposition and back story, like what happened to Belle’s mother as well as a bit of the Beast’s origin but what I appreciated more was giving more time for Belle and the Beast to fall for each other. In the original, it felt like she patched him up after the incident with the wolves and then he was in love with her and that always struck me as being way too fast. Even so, I still can’t help but think that this movie is relying on the comfort of having so much nostalgia behind it that it forgets to carve it’s own path, something that was a real sticking point for me. 3.5/5