BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
(director: Bill Condon; screenwriters: based on the tale by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve/ Stephen Chbosky/Evan Spiliotopoulos; cinematographer: Tobias Schliessler; editor: Virginia Katz; music: Matt Sullivan; cast: Emma Watson (Belle), Dan Stevens (Beast), Luke Evans (Gaston), Josh Gad (LeFou), Ewan McGregor (Lumiere), Stanley Tucci (Maestro Cadenza), Ian McKellen (Cogsworth) Kevin Kline (Maurice), Audra McDonald (Wardrobe), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Feather-Duster), Hattie Morahan (Enchantress); Runtime: 129; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman; Walt Disney Pictures ;2017)
“Overlong, garish, and hammy.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Bill Condon (“Kinsey”/”Gods and Monsters”) directs this Disney musical and fairy-tale love story, a live–action version of the 1991 classic that he converts into a modern-day CGI effects and gender twisting film. Besides not being a compelling watch, it’s overlong, garish, and hammy. The 1991 one was the first animated feature to win an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. This one is based on the fairy tale by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont in 1756. It was originally written by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve in 1740. The bland script is by Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos. All the music from the 1991 version is included.
In the prelude, the prince (Dan Stevens) is the nasty, selfish, hedonistic, and partying only with the beautiful people cad. The prince is living in an opulent enchanted castle in the woods, and is concerned only with his good looks and how people he associates with look. During a storm he refuses shelter to an old and ugly woman (Hattie Morahan), who offers him a perfect rose as a present. She in turn casts a spell that turns him into a bison-looking beast who can turn human again only once he learns how to love and be loved. That curse also goes for his servants. They include the candlestick Lumière (Ewan McGregor), the clock Cogsworth (Ian McKellen), the wardrobe (Audra McDonald), the feather-duster (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the piano (Stanley Tucci), and the teapot Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson). They talk and sing like humans, but unless the master of the house overcomes the curse they no longer will be seen as humans.
In the peaceful but backward tiny French village, Maurice (Kevin Kline) is the inventor widowed (it’s never explained what happened to his wife) father of the bookworm and beauty Belle (Emma Watson). On her birthday, Maurice goes into the woods to look for a rose his daughter requests. He’s attacked by wolves and finds shelter in a dark abandoned castle he stumbles upon. But is caged as a prisoner when he steals a rose and is given a life sentence by the beast. When Belle comes to rescue her father on his returning horse, she gets her father released by agreeing to take his place.
When the father returns to the village for help, he gets the vain suitor Belle can’t stand, the boorish army captain Gaston (Luke Evans) and his comic relief gay sidekick LeFou (Josh Gad), to rescue Belle. But the rescue is botched, as Gaston shows his evil face and handles everything wrong.
The hostage scenario is loaded with potentially risky psychosexual subtexts. But have no fear, everything is sanitized and after some time in captivity Belle begins to find things she has in common with her captor and begins to find things he possesses inwardly that she could love. The beast this time is an avid reader and when she’s granted access to his vast library her heart begins to melt for him as a soul-mate.
Even the film’s centerpiece Busby Berkeley-inspired rendition of “Be Our Guest,” is out-charmed by the low-budget animated version, which was done for far less than this was for $160 million.
The gold-standard for Beauty and the Beast films is the groundbreaking 1946 Jean Cocteau film.
REVIEWED ON 3/19/2017 GRADE: C+