Film Review: "Beauty and the Beast" is a tale dully told
Beauty and the Beast is the sort of adaptation that follows the script of its source as holy writ. Maybe some will find that to be a positive, an “If it ain't broke, don't fix it” kind of thing. But I found it to be particularly obnoxious. Well, it's obnoxious in other ways too. For one, director Bill Condon (The Fifth Estate, Chicago) tells the story, a story which demands big emotions and an epic sweep, so blandly. He just puts the camera wherever; if the actors are in frame, then that's good enough. It's remarkably lazy work from a well-established director. Imagine a doped up on Xanax Daria reading you fairytales, not deviating from the text in the slightest. What you get is 2017's Beauty and the Beast.
However, unsurprisingly for a Disney movie, the costuming, production design, and visual effects are marvellous; the hand-to-brow fidelity to the baroque beauty of the original source material is something to behold. A shame that through Condon's anonymous direction, then, that it all feels in service to not much more than “Wow, it sure does look like that thing I remember!” and maybe that provokes an intermittent plastic smile if you're a devoted fan. For everyone else, this is a drag.
The only stroke of inspiration here is Luke Evans as the chief antagonist Gaston. He is exactly as prickishly good looking and charmingly buffoonish as you'd want Gaston to be. He's rather good. Beauty and the Beast threatens to be worthwhile when he's prancing about and preening and making threats. Oh, and his best friend, Le Fou (Josh Gad), is revealed in this adaptation to be gay. It's not that noteworthy, though, as we only know this through innuendo and unfunny one-liners. Somebody wake me up when he's snogging a guy. It's indicative of another annoying thing about this Beauty and the Beast: Any attempt to add a spoke to the wheel, so to speak, is so incredibly half-assed that you wonder why they bothered. The few new songs land with a thud and then instantly evaporate.
Emma Watson acquits herself well as the bookish and kind Belle. So too does Dan Stevens as the Beast. Their scenes together are good enough that you wish they had a movie to match their considerable efforts and talent.
If we're being real, there is no reason for this to exist other than to guzzle money. None. A similar accusation is levelled at superhero films, Star Wars films, all kinds of large budgeted films. But at least they are, for the most part, offering something new within the confines of a familiar genre. At least going into those films I don't know exactly what's going to happen and what the characters are going to do, beat by beat. This tale as old as time was deconstructed and parodied so well in 2001's Shrek. 1991's Beauty and the Beast remains an all-time classic, an intoxicating vision of fairytale romance. Both these movies still exist and are still wonderful. Well enough should have been left alone.