Friday, March 17, 2017 6:45 am ·  1 Comment
Beauty and the Beast is the first jaw-dropping blockbuster of the year, and it’s magnificent to behold on screen. It’s exquisite, charming, whimsical, and sweetly controversial. Above all else, the movie is both entertaining and enchanting for all ages.
Disney’s remake of its beloved “tale as old as time” is a mixture of a reinvented structure and a loyal adaptation. Some parts are in the past, and some are gracefully waltzed into the present. Everything from the 1991 original is enhanced with new texture added for a lush and grand design.
It’s quickly noticeable why opinions may be divided among some audiences. As faithful and energetic as this Beauty is, it’s slightly weakened by the occasional modern sensibilities of the screenplay and behaviour of the actors. The only annoying moments in director Bill Condon’s (Dreamgirls, Breaking Dawn) fantasy is when he’s trying too hard to be smart instead of sincere.
That’s the same problem with early Disney animation-to-live-action adaptations, such as Alice in Wonderland or Maleficent. But like 2015’s stunning Cinderella, this fairy tale works because of the filmmakers’ respect and allegiance to its source material. And yes, the shots and lines translated plainly from the 90s classic are among the best.
The film has outstanding nuance and strong morals of bravery, compassion, and trust. This thematic strength grows more dynamic and interesting as the movie continues, building to a rich and emotionally satisfying climax. Don’t worry about the treasured story though; the plot is ornately amplified with grace.
Beauty and the Beast tells the story of a selfish French prince (Dan Stevens) who is cursed to live his life as a beast in his castle alone with the servants. One day, a girl from the nearby village named Belle (Emma Watson), finds the estate away from the village where she too is seen as an outsider.
She agrees to stay with the Beast to save her father (Kevin Kline, with his best performance in 20 years) and soon befriends the enchanted residents. But to break the spell, the prince must learn to love at last, or be doomed to stay a beast forever.
One of the many admirable details from the new movie is Condon’s fixing of a major continuity error that’s haunted the original story; the changing of seasons. He wisely adds weather as part of the castle’s spell, and it becomes a gorgeous setting. And the masterfully decorated sets and detailed production are just as meticulous.
I also applaud the casting of multiple non-white actors (as would be expected) in featured parts, and a vastly multicultural ensemble and background too. The only complaint with the acting is how come so many people seem to be English in a French court or country town. The first thirty minutes also have a rushed pace.
The entire cast is mesmerizing, with the previously mentioned Watson, Stevens, and Kline all delivering highlights of their careers. But the best player is Luke Evans as the handsome and violent Gaston. He’s the most human and deviously cunning villain I’ve ever seen in the part, and he nails every moment he’s on screen.
Of course, the features that truly shine are the songs that put Beauty and the Beast on the map. The music is seamlessly integrated with poise throughout the film. There’s three pleasant new songs too, including a powerful new solo for the Beast called “Evermore” that’ll knock your socks off.
Everyone sings without missing a note (yes, even Emma Watson.) And when the spectacle come out for famous numbers like “Gaston”, “Be Our Guest”, and the title song, all are presented as showstoppers in their own right. But none of them overshadow the others, and it’s a delight to watch from beginning to end.
Audiences wondering if they should see this musical epic should reflect on their own cynicism. Most of the negative reviews come from viewers with stratospheric expectations for perfection, salty musical haters, and purists to the original Disney cartoon upset by this remake’s very existence.
If you fall into one of these categories stay far away; you’ll most likely leave the theatre frustrated. I believe this Beast, however, is particularly captivating, with panache and enough intelligence to stand with Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise’s classic. As Gaston himself says in an early scene, “Dignity…it’s outrageously attractive, isn’t it?”
The film’s theme of appearance vs. reality appropriately mirrors the perspective of most audiences thus far critiquing the movie. The question asked at the prologue’s end is “Who could ever love a beast?”. I suspect Condon’s soulful presentation will be enough for movie-goers and fans to be romanced and taken under Disney’s spell again.
Beauty and the Beast
3 1/2 out of 4 stars.
PG, 129 minutes. Romantic Musical Fantasy.
Directed by Bill Condon.
Starring Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Emma Thompson, Ewan McGregor, and Ian McKellen.
Now Playing at Film.Ca Cinemas, Cineplex Winston Churchill and Cineplex Oakville & VIP. Also in IMAX.
1991, 2017, Audra McDonald, Beauty and the Beast, Best Picture, Bill Condon, Buena Vista, Dan Stevens, Disney, Emma Thompson, Emma Watson, Ewan McGregor, Fantasy, Film.Ca Cinemas, Gary Trousdale, Gugu Mthbaw-Raw, Ian McKellen, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline, Kirk Wise, Luke Evans, March 17th 2017, Movies, Musicals, Remakes, reviews, Romance, Stanley Tucci