This review is being written never having viewed the 1991 animated classic or the 1946 original or any other incarnation of the classic tale. In viewing the latest version of Beauty and the Beast, one can only think how good it might be. There must be something to this story for it to have seen two television series, the classic Disney animated film, a foreign film from France/Germany in 2014 and now this film version. As I understand, this 2017 version is more of a direct remake of the 1991 Disney classic. At the 1992 Academy Awards, the film was nominated for Best Picture (which apparently was the first animated film to do so) and Best Sound and won Oscars for Best Original Song and Best Original Score.
This film version has its merits and does bring some of the magic and wonder that you might expect from Disney in a tale like this. Bill Condon directed this story from writers Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos and has produced a new version for new viewers. The cinematography by Tobias A. Schliessler was marvelous to look at and added to the film with musical numbers like “Be Our Guest.” From the depictions of small villages to the vast countryside and from the crowded, treacherous woods to the grand castle in which lived the prince (Beast), the cinematography brought the characters and surroundings to life.
The acting in this film seemed short of extraordinary, but that is not to say the performances were dull or plain, they just appeared to fit and served the purpose of the story. The film starred Emma Watson as Belle, the fair beauty of the land, who lived with her father Maurice (Kevin Kline), and Dan Stevens as the Prince turned Beast by the Enchantress (Hattie Morahan) because of his vanity and cold soul. Luke Evans portrayed Gaston, a seemingly vain character himself who would do anything to win the affection of the fair Belle, while LeFou (Josh Gad) stood by and unwillingly served him. Not knowing the cast before going in to seeing this film, I was surprised at some of the acting talents that lent their voices through much of the film, talents such as Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, and Stanley Tucci. Of course there were many others (because musicals usually bring large casts to the production) whose faces we did not see for much of the film that did a wonderful job with their voice characterizations.
I believe the musical score and choreography were worthy of most any big stage musical production and the CGI seemed to flow flawlessly through the musical numbers. So, hats off to the original animated inspiration. There might be differing views here, though. While this production’s musical performance served its purpose for this production, from what I understand, it might pale in comparison to the 1991 animated classic in some aspects. Not having seen the animated version, I can’t quite adequately compare the two. But I, regardless if the film is a remake, a remake of the remake, or some sort of adaptation of the original source material, I take it as I see it in the current version. In this case, this musical version appeared to serve its purpose – and I believe that purpose is to entertain and be visually stunning while still maintaining a true sense of story.
Even with its merits, stunning cinematography, and near flawless CGI action sequences, the film does suffer from some inadequacies. In part, the aforementioned CGI, but mostly the relationship between the Beast and Belle. It seemed a bit rushed and the sense of connection between the two wasn’t quite strong enough for me. I wanted a little more to be truly believable. From what I understand, the backstory of how Belle lost her mother was a nice little addition to the story and character, but I’m not sure if it was truly warranted.
There was some talk in the film’s release about some “gay characters.” I don’t consider this a true issue or controversy. There might have been a “sense” of it if you were actually looking for it, but it was not overtly done and was done with enough subtlety that I don’t believe should really be an issue. That’s all I’m going to say about that.
This new version of Beauty and the Beast fell just short of remarkable, but still had enough story and action to keep me engaged with the characters to make this an enjoyable film to watch. At some point, I will have to visit the 1991 animated version to truly compare the two (as I have with other remakes) to test the true virtue with this story. Until then, I leave you with this enlightening and entertaining film.