I hold no dear memories to the animated feature length film of Beauty and the Beast. I vaguely remember watching the animated version, but for the life of me could not remember the story at all and why the beast was cursed, so I may as well have approached it as an entirely brand-new film.
Because of the increase in the quality of CGI-films, Disney have started to adapt their much-loved animated films to live-action features. These reboots were really kick-started with the live-action remake of Cinderella. I didn’t catch that one, but I did catch Jon Favreau’s rather impressive The Jungle Book.
Carrying forward with the reimagining of the Disney Princesses, Bill Condon bought Belle’s story into the 21st century but entirely in live action. Having previous footings within musicals, it seemed like a wise choice to have Condon direct. (Whether Chicago and Dreamgirls are any good, I cannot comment)
Questions were asked about Emma Watson and how good she was going to be in the lead role of Belle, but as the film stretches through it’s runtime, I found the performance very mediocre. But it doesn’t stop there for the casting, as the furniture like Lumiere (Ewan McGregor) and Cogsworth (Ian McKellen) were found to be very mundane too. The standout performance would have to come from LeFou (Josh Gad) and Gaston (Luke Evans) as they also drove the scenes they featured in with their comedic gestures towards one another and the blatant narcissism.
What was impressive was the incredible set design throughout the film, from the incredibly fancy opening ball room dance before the curse is placed, to the small-village feel of Villeneuve as Belle dances around during her opening number. Condon managed to create a feeling on solitude within the echoey halls of this once-vibrant castle which was impressive.
Condon’s reimagining of Beauty and the Beast doesn’t seem to stray from the path that was laid out in the previous film. He does however, manage to add the spectacle that is enhanced with the advancements in film today, creatively shown by the ‘Be Our Guest’ musical number as the film enters an almost hallucinogenic area with this song and dance.
But between the big extravagant musical numbers and the story that builds the narrative the film eventually checks in at around 130 minutes and for me, this felt far too long. The inclusion of the musical numbers is fine, because it gives this modern-day Beauty and the Beast the ability to hit the nostalgic nerve, but there seems to be plenty of ’empty space’ throughout the film, offering no progressive for narrative nor characters.
For me, there did not seem to be that connection with the characters throughout the story and this could be down to the characters not pulling in great performances. Aside from the occasional laughs through LeFou and Gaston, there wasn’t a great deal of narrative for the characters to sink their teeth into. It’s very much a run-of-the-mill love story, but that can’t be helped as Condon’s reimagining seems to be very truthful to the original feature film.
That being said, there was a sense of enjoyment from the film. But I didn’t leave the cinema spellbound by the remake. Although the CGI effects were incredible and in some instances making the Beast more terrifying that he ought to be, the effects are not backed up by the characters. Everyone is lost in Gaston and LeFou’s shadows whilst they are on-screen, but they seem to drive home their scenes, thus making them more enjoyable characters to watch.
I didn’t go in with any sense of a connection to the original as a child and I’ve left indifferent. It was impressive with the set designs and the incredible scenery of this rural landscaped France. And the mix of comedy and musical worked in areas, but found the music too overpowering for the songs which left me wondering what they were singing half the time. Although it was enjoyable, I still found Favreau’s The Jungle Book to be the benchmark of these live-action remakes thus far.
(that’s until Guy Ritchie has he say with Aladdin)