Beauty and the Beast

Belle (Emma Watson) lives peacefully in a small French town in her father but she seems like a bit of an odd one out. She can and likes to read, which is viewed with some suspicion. She also isn’t too keen on marrying the local hunk/bully Gaston (Luke Evans), no matter how much he sings at her. Thankfully, a convergence of circumstances end up taking Belle on a slightly different path to a mysterious castle with a hirsute owner (Dan Stevens), she is very much the Beauty to his Beast. Singing, talking crockery and romance ensue.

Beauty and the Beast is the latest entry into Disney’s campaign to slowly and steadily convert all of their beloved animated classics into live action films. With Cinderella and the Jungle Book already out there and Dumbo and the Lion King next up it seems like it’s something we’re going to be seeing more of in the future. Although I’ve still not worked out how you make a live action version of the Lion King without some incredibly well trained animals. The big question is, why are they going through this extensive period of realification? Well I’m not totally convinced, as much fun as the Jungle Book and Cinderella were they didn’t really add much, but how does Beauty and the Beast fare?

I thought Beauty and the Beast was fine, but that’s about it really. Everything looked beautifully (pun intended) shot and the actors were, for the most part pretty well chosen. Emma Watson does a really good job as Belle and manages to make her an interesting and well rounded character. She’s not a damsel in distress and she’s not a princess waiting to be swept up, she’s a person with some agency and a character of her own. Also, I had no idea that Emma Watson could actually sing, but she really does manage to hold her own here. Luke Evans is perhaps the most perfect bit of casting in the entire film as the self-involved, preening and generally all round arsehole Gaston. He’s just the right amount of stupid, self-obsessed and painfully unaware. I think part of the success of Gaston comes in the form of LeFou (Josh Gad), who is Gaston’s closest friend, and secretly his deepest admirer. Gad ends up with some of the best lines in the film and their relationship is one of the better and most notable additions to the film. I wasn’t that keen on Dan Stevens as the Beast though, whether it was in his CGI Beast-ification or pre-transformation he just didn’t feel right to me. I’ve been thinking about it for ages now and I can’t quite put my finger on what it was. As good as Emma Watson was I didn’t think that there was a great chemistry between the two of them, which is a bit of an issue as that is one of the main strands of the film.

Speaking of the Beast, the CGI wasn’t actually that great, which given what had gone before it, in terms of Disney live action movies, was surprising. The animals in the Jungle Book and the Elliot in Pete’s Dragon were superbly realised CGI creations, so it’s a bit odd that the Beast managed to somehow look less than convincing, or at least he did to me. It’s fine, but it’s just not great given what’s gone before. Similarly, the staff at Beast Towers who has all been turned into household objects were a little more creepy than their cartoon counterparts. There’s a moment where Belle drinks from the head of a chipped cup (Chip voiced by Nathan Mack) which is more than a little creepy. As an aside Emma Thompson takes on the role of Chip’s mother Mrs Potts, originally voiced by Angela Lansbury, and decides for some reason decides to go full cockney, jarringly so. I’ve no idea why given the film is set in the middle of France and most of the other servants have a fair stab at a French accent. Although, Belle and Beast make no attempt to be French so maybe the accents aren’t that important!

Beauty and the Beast was ok, and if I’d never seen the original cartoon I’d have probably liked it a lot. But the problem is that I have seen the cartoon and it’s much more interesting and more lovingly crafted than the film. I was hoping for a lot more from the film and hoping it might do something slightly different. I was onboard with live action remakes after Maleficent as despite not being brilliant it tried to do something new and show the story in a new light. Hopefully the future live action re-imaginings from Disney have a little bit more imagining in there. As much as Beauty and the Beast would you like you to be its guest it sadly doesn’t bring too much to the table.

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