If this version of Beauty and the Beast had its director curing the first hour and 40 minutes with the same inventive they had for the extravagant third act, we would probably talk about a movie for the ages.
Goes without saying we’re not.
The first act of the movie completely lacks the mystery that made the opening of the original Disney classic so special. While in the cartoon we are told about the course through a series of paintings described by voice over, in this live-action we are shown it.
Nothing wrong with that since we get a taste of costumes and production design right off the bat, except they didn’t lose the voice over. Which, of course, means we get someone describing what we are seeing, which is the first thing they tell you not to do in freaking film schools.
Then, we get Belle’s introduction. It was extremely disappointing to get a very basic intro to what is our protagonist. The song was fine, but again it was staged and shot in a very basic way that was making me nervous.
Afterwards, when we are introduced to the castle when Maurice seeks shelter, there’s not a single moment of the horror mystery from the cartoon. Instead, we get a basic introduction by showing the frightened yet hilarious reaction of Kevin Cline, emotions that we don’t end up feeling at all.
As you might already understood, the movie goes basic a lot of times. While I acknowledge that the living antiques in the castle are beautifully managed and the castle itself is surely appealing, the design of the beast is everything but monstrous. What we have is basically a really hairy human face, some crest and horns, plus the wolf legs. On top of that, he stands as a human for most of the movie.
It’s basically the opposite of frightening. While I understand the need of keeping it kids friendly, the last year’s French adaptation had a more animal look than this.
The story is pretty loyal to the Disney classic, except we got some Belle’s mom backstory, as well as the Prince. While in the first case results extremely useless, in the second it actually diminish the character because he doesn’t really change anymore.
And here’s where the script goes full obsolete: the prince is literally prince charming, which in 2017 is like talking about what was the things made woman fall in love with a man in the ’50s; Belle is literally flawless, she is even a better inventor than her dad (who is not an inventor anymore), which is like stretching things a little too much since it makes her a totally fictitious character.
Belle’s character doesn’t get any help from Emma Watson, who plays her in a yet effortless way, which could be due to the flawless totally unrelatable writing of the character. On the other hand, Dan Stevens offers a new version of the beast by giving him a somewhat irreverent attitude, slightly similar to what we’ve seen him doing in Legion.
It’s funny how the side characters are almost copy/pasted from the original. From Gastòn to Lumiere, they are exactly what we expected them. Some became better thanks to casting choices (McGregor, McKellen, Evans, Josh Gad), others got downplayed by screen time despite their names (Tucci).
Overall, we are in front of a pretty average movie that could have been and must have been more since the significance of the first Beauty and the Beast. Perhaps hiring the guy who directed the last two Twilight movies as well as the really boring Mr. Holmes wasn’t the best choice.