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Review: Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Disney knows how to make stacks of cash, and their most recent venture of doing such is remaking some of their most classic animated flicks. This formula has worked quite well with them so far, as Cinderella, The Jungle Book, and Pete’s Dragon earned good numbers at the box office.

The latest remake Disney has in store is Beauty and the Beast. Based off the 1991 original, the film follows Belle, a beautiful and fearless girl who on a mission to rescue her father meets a seemingly wicked Beast. Under the surface however, the Beast proves to have more of a heart than expected.

While the Disney formula has continued to work well financially, I am somewhat mixed about the actual quality of these films. Beauty and the Beast is an example of my trepidation, ultimately trading in its original’s big heart for a glossy, yet soulless update to the big screen.

At its best though, Beauty and the Beast works quite well. Director Bill Condon’s stylish effort is able to craft a grand sense of scale. Everything from the seamless-CGI integration of animated characters to the lavish decor helps make this material shine in a new light. The film is at its best with some of its more grandiose musical set pieces, with the titular main track and “Gaston” in particular being highlights.

For the most part, the casting here is quite good. The highlight here is Josh Gad, whose talent as a Broadway performer transfers seamlessly to the big screen. As LeFou, he is able to interject more personality than the character ever had in the original. The Beasts’ friends are also well casted, with Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, and Emma Thompson also bring life to their roles. One also can’t forget Gaston, who Luke Evans brings to life with an assured confidence, making up for what he lacks in stature compared to the original character.

Surprisingly enough, the weakest link of the cast is the film’s star. Emma Watson gives it her all, but is frankly miscast as Belle. Watson is never able to sell herself as Belle, a girl who we should believe as fearless and intelligent. She also struggles in the film’s musical portions, with the heavy presence of post-production meddling took me out of the movie.

As a remake, this new Beauty and the Beast film flirts with adding some new elements, most notably making LeFou Disney’s first gay character. However, all these new additions end up just being a disappointment, ultimately proving to be woefully half-baked. Everything works in concept, but there just isn’t the proper development to make these changes cohesive.

The great travesty of this remake is just how much of the original’s charm its lacking. The relationship between Belle and The Beast often times is overshadowed by the visual eye-candy, with Condon’s direction ultimately getting too caught-up in the bombast of the production. It ends up making this film feel just so more cynical than it really should, which is a letdown considering the original is one of the best Disney films.

The Beauty and The Beast takes the timeless appeal of the original and trades it in for a visually grand, yet soulless retelling. If this is a sign of whats to come from the Disney remake train, we are in trouble.

Grade: C 

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