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Beauty and the Beast

This remake is doomed by its very concept; transforming the characters from cartoons into actual people kills the magic

Emma Watson and Dan Stevens in the un-animated Beauty and the Beast. <<© Walt Disney Pictures>>

The original it isn’t

Belle (Emma Watson: Regression) is stifled in her provincial French town. She’s smart, progressive and inventive. The village is repressive, and the villagers mock her. Only the town meathead Gaston (Luke Evans: The Girl on the Train) seems to appreciate Belle, though she repeatedly rejects his offers of marriage.
    Belle tries to lose herself in books. But when her father Maurice (Kevin Kline: Bob’s Burgers) is kidnapped by a horrible Beast (Dan Stevens: Legion), Belle volunteers to take his place.
    Instead of life in captivity in a drafty dungeon, Belle is received into a lavish castle and treated as a cherished guest. The Beast and castle staff are former humans cursed by an enchantress angered at the Beast’s cruelty. To break the spell, he must earn the love of a woman. Belle is their hope, but she isn’t enamored with the loud and angry Beast who holds her prisoner.
    Can the Beast learn to look past his ego? Can Belle learn to look beneath the surface? Why would Disney remake its best film?
    The answer to the last question is profit. Disney will make a bundle of money on this remake of the 1991 classic, the first animated movie to earn a Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards. In adapting the film to live action, director Bill Condon (Mr. Holmes) loses much of the charm that made the original wonderful.
    The remake is doomed by its very concept. Transforming the characters from cartoons into actual people removes the fantasy, and some of the silliness, so that the brutal fight between Beast and Gaston takes a much darker, scarier tone. The cartoon didn’t reference death by plague (or show its welts), and it certainly didn’t hint that villainous Gaston was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to his time in the war.
    Belle adds another problem. Watson is certainly a beauty, and looks lovely spinning in her outfits, but as Belle she’s woefully miscast. She’s a poor singer whose voice is clearly autotuned to the right notes. Her performance, too, is surprisingly one-note. Belle is full of bluster rather than wonder and curiosity. Nor does she make a convincing connection with the Beast.
    The hero who saves every scene he’s in is Gaston. As the villain jock who hounds Belle for a date, Evans seems to be the only actor who understands the tone of the tale. His Gaston is hilariously vain and frighteningly violent, making him the most compelling and complex character in the movie. He can also sing.
    Many small viewers cried several times, so make sure your child is prepared for scary creatures, loud fights and violence before you buy a ticket.

Poor Musical • PG • 129 mins.