SUNDAY TIMES - 'Beauty and the Beast' movie review: what's all the fuss about?
Sunday Times Entertainment By Tymon Smith, 2017-04-13 00:00:00.0

'Beauty and the Beast' movie review: what's all the fuss about?

Emma Watson and Dan Stevens star in Disney's unremarkable remake of 'Beauty and the Beast'.
Image: Walt Disney Studios

Over the past few years Disney has adopted a strategy of taking its archive of classic animation and repurposing it for a new generation through live-action remakes.

It's hardly the most innovative idea in the company's history but it's making it a lot of money, and so, after the recent success of The Jungle Book, it's now the turn of the 1991 classic Beauty and the Beast to receive the enchanting real-people musical treatment under the stewardship of Bill Condon.

Condon, who put the world into a mediocre, unstoppable and still inexplicable stupor with the first two Twilight films, pretty much just brings the animation to life - familiar set-pieces, familiar songs, familiar everything to anyone who saw the original.

For a little relevance he's made one of the characters - villain Gaston's sidekick, La Fou - a homosexual, a decision that caused suitable outrage among Fox News family-values types ahead of the release but really doesn't make that much of an impact on the film.

Besides a small change here and there, the live action version remains true to its source material and in the age of disenchantment the US public's hunger for anything to take their minds off the real world has allowed the film to sprint to the top of the box office stakes.

Either that's because no one remembers the original, or they really believe that turning it into a live film complete with Ian McKellen as a talking clock, Emma Thompson as a teapot and Ewan McGregor as a candlestick is an amazing cinematic achievement.

Emma Watson stars as Belle, the beautiful, dutiful daughter who sacrifices herself for the sake of her father and ends up trapped in the eerie castle run by the Beast (Dan Stevens) and his talking utensil servants.

Watson is not so much beautiful as befuddled and it's hard to see what all the fuss is about.

By the time Gaston (a terrible campy Luke Evans) arrives to rescue her and have his showdown with Stevens there's still more boring, melodramatically directed doe-eyed schlock to endure before finally it's all over and you can go home and watch the original, or even better, turn to Jean Cocteau's 1946 classic (and the obvious inspiration for Disney's animated version) La Belle et la Bête, which is a film of true magic and innovation, told with the bittersweet poetry the story demands.

Disney has struck gold but that's a dismal sign of the lack of innovation needed to entertain tired audiences more and more reconciled to overcompensating for their lethargy by falling too easily into the arms of comfortable mediocrity.

WATCH the trailer for Beauty and the Beast



• Those who predicted this wouldn't hold a talking candle to the animated original will be pleasantly surprised. The tale may be as old as time, but it's retold with freshness, brio and flair. - Nick de Semlyen, Empire

• Watson is an ideal Belle in this wonderful remake that's at once nostalgic and new, bringing to life the musical both for kids and life-long adult fans. - Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media

• A touching, eminently watchable, at times slightly awkward experience that justifies its existence yet never totally convinces you it's a movie the world was waiting for. - Owen Gleiberman, Variety

Beauty and the Beast opens in cinemas on Friday, April 14.

This article was originally published in The Times.