Disney nails their real life rendition of the classic animated film with a spot on adaptation, but is that a good thing?
I’ve always loved Beauty and The Beast. It’s such a great movie that was wonderfully animated years ago. It’s a classic story with a great message and amazing themes. When I had heard they were doing a real life rendition of this film, I did backflips, as I imagine many of you did as well. There’s so much that could be done with this story. I mean, how could you go wrong, right? Remakes always pose two questions: does this new movie add anything new and will it keep true to it’s roots? Both are important, but most would argue they’re not equally important. If you’re wondering if this film is the real life version of everyone’s treasured childhood animated feature, then yes, it keeps amazingly well to it’s roots. The question then becomes, what does it have that the original didn’t?
In short, the original didn’t have Emma Watson. However, don’t be fooled, that’s a good thing. I’ll get to her, but first for the rest of the cast. As with most musicals, the performances are a filled with an ounce or 7 of over acting and going over the top. Most of the cast is guilty of this. They all seem to be better suited for Broadway rather than the big screen and it seems a bit out of place. The one performance I enjoyed was that of Josh Gad’s as LeFou. Playing the first openly gay character in a Disney film is certainly not an easy task but he nails it, especially considering Disney’s definition of “openly gay” is gay but never hint too strongly at it. Gad plays the fine line fraternal companionship and attraction seamlessly with Luke Evans’ character. His little gestures give away his homosexuality, rather than some overt declaration or stereotyping. Dan Stevens, who plays Beast, wasn’t particularly special. However, it’s hard to express the little things of a performance when you’re covered in computer graphics. Regardless, this isn’t his movie. This is Emma Watson’s film and her moment to shine. It’s a shame she never does. It’s not all her fault. Her character was written in a very flat manner, without any depth or definition other than a girl who wants more from the world, as stated in her opening song. The stigma I have with her performance is the general lack attraction or care for her and her character throughout the film that you would find with most other leading performances, or even with Belle from the animated film. You never feel that she is in any danger, that she will face any adversity, or that she will not come out on top. The audience knows how this story goes and doesn’t buy the emotions Watson wants to evoke. On the other side of the coin, she knows how the story goes and is just trying the scurry the plot along without providing any good scenes. With that said, she doesn’t provide bad scenes either.
Performances aside, the real issue with this film lies with the writers of the film and the director, Bill Condon. A remake has to add something new or be fresh to be warranted. Redoing the film in real life is more a gimmick than a reason to warrant it’s creation. The story may be relatively simple, but there is so much depth going on in the story. On the surface, this is a story about love, but deep down, this is a tale about materialism, loving people over things, masculinity and what it means to be a man, rather than an animal. I put the writers as well as the director in the line of fire because I can’t exactly pinpoint who’s fault it is at the end of the day. It’s most likely a mix of both.
For starters, they should’ve paid the writers more than they paid their graphic designers. The film looks great visually. It’s too bad the story beneath those great views can’t compare. It feels like they’ve solely copied and pasted the original script, adjusted a few lines, added some jokes, and called it a day. The introduction of homosexuality in a character is an interesting new angle, along with a large number of African American cast members. However, despite these additions, they don’t lead to anything. This is where the blame starts to fall onto Condon. He’s given all these little pieces that he can use to make a grand statement about masculinity, or equality, but just uses them as gimmicks and cheap attractions with flesh. The fault also lies in the writers for writing interesting character concepts and angles, but never fleshing them out beyond an idea to help express the major themes of the film of love, materialism, and masculinity.
Chances are, you’re going to see this film for a touch of nostalgia, for Emma Watson, or perhaps even to bring your kids to see it. In those cases, you’re in for a great movie. However, if you were expecting an interesting take on an old classic, you’ll end up just wasting three hours and twenty dollars.
The film hits theaters on March 17.
We attended an advanced screening of the film presented by Hello Beautiful.