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'Beauty and the Beast' is a good movie, not a great one

Posted March 21

The Beast (Dan Stevens) and Belle (Emma Watson) in the castle library in Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, a live-action adaptation of the studio's animated classic which is a celebration of one of the most beloved stories ever told. (Deseret Photo)

THE ENCHANTED CASTLE — The much anticipated live-action “Beauty and the Beast” is now ready to release, and people are already selling out theaters to see the new take on the animated classic. But should you be so willing to be Beauty and the Beast's guest?

This new film is based off the 1991 animated version, which itself is based off a tale as old as time. (Sorry, I had to.) The new film is following in the recent Disney trend of taking old animated classics and giving them a live-action update. While I loved last year’s “Jungle Book,” this new film didn’t rise to that level for me.

“Beauty and the Beast” has some really great things going for it and also some really not so great things. Here is the good and the bad you can expect from “Beauty and the Beast.”

The good

Stunning visuals

Director Bill Condon and the art direction team behind “Beauty and the Beast” must have spent hours upon hours creating the set pieces and décor for the film. Just like the animated version, the settings are gorgeous and magical.

Yes, it’s clearly obvious at times that many of the set pieces are just that— fake set pieces. But it still makes for fantastical visuals that keep your eyes darting all over the screen trying to absorb as much as you can.

Nostalgia

When those piano keys start striking the chords and the words “Tale as old as time” just pop into your head, it’s next to impossible not to smile. Watching this well-known story play out in a new format in front of you is like drinking a cup of your favorite hot chocolate with a touch of chili powder added. It warms you with its familiar aroma and flavor profile, but there is something extra in there that is new to your pallet. You may not like it as much as the cup you’re used to, but there is enough familiarity there to keep you drinking until the cup is gone.

Kevin Kline (and some cast)

For me, the standout in the cast was undoubtedly Kevin Kline. I personally think he is a phenomenal actor and he manages to bring a new tone to Belle’s father, Maurice.

The patriarch in Belle’s home is no longer a clumsy tinker, but a refined artist with a past that constantly haunts him. Kline creates for us the deepest and most human character in the entire film, and I found myself yearning for more of him.

While Kline is the best thing in the film, there are other members of the cast I really enjoyed as well. Dan Stevens’ portrayal of the beast is brooding, yet gentle. We barely get to see Stevens’ face, but his gravitas and presence are felt through the motion-capture beast.

Another actor we don’t really see is Ewan McGregor as Lumiere. McGregor brings some new life into the beloved character that I appreciated. I think many will not like his performance just because they so fondly remember Jerry Orbach’s fantastic performance, but I personally felt like McGregor was a real highlight.

I don’t think Emma Watson’s performance is bad and the young woman has a beautiful singing voice, but compared to some of the others I’ve mentioned, particularly Kline, her performance was just OK for me. She does not belong in the bad category by any means, but I didn’t feel like she was the heart and soul like she needed to be. Overall, she does a fine job and is a believable Belle, but I wasn’t yearning to see her on screen like I was with some of the other characters.

The bad

Some of the rest of the cast

Let’s continue on with the cast. While some performances were spot on, there were some others that left me both disappointed and feeling awkward, to be honest.

Luke Evans wasn’t bad as Gaston, but his performance bordered on Vaudevillian a little too often for me. I wouldn't be at all surprised if Condon pushed Evans in that direction, but for me it didn’t quite work.

I know most of us were excited to see Josh Gad take on the part of LeFou. I think Gad usually has impeccable comedic timing and manages to capture a hearty laugh with just a look, but his LeFou fell flat for me. His timing seemed off, and it made for jokes landing awkwardly and missing the mark just a hair. I think some of it was due to the script and the material he was given because some of the jokes were just a swing and a miss, and so juvenile that even my 6-year-old didn’t think they were funny.

Gad isn’t terrible by any means, but I felt like the film missed a really great opportunity by not nailing that part.

The rest of the voice cast was just OK for me and that includes a favorite of mine, Stanley Tucci. Again, I’m not saying any of these performances were awful, but they just seemed to be missing something that the old film captured.

Gets boring

When you’re remaking a 26-year-old movie, you need more than a couple of new songs and a peek into the backstory of some of your characters to keep everyone interested.

It’s been more than a quarter of a century since “Beauty and the Beast” hit theaters, so it’s safe to say we’ve seen it anywhere between seven and 8,000 times. We know the story, we know the songs, we know the plot twists and character evolutions, which means we can start to get antsy as we wait for the next exciting chapter, and sometimes, it just doesn’t come fast enough.

Thankfully, some of the things I mentioned earlier like the visuals and nostalgia help keep you interested, but as for me I found myself looking at my watch more than once.

What parents should know

Overall, the movie is very tame. In fact, my 6-year-old daughter thinks the original is scarier because the beast roars more in the animated version. With that said, however, I think the fact we’re dealing with real people this time may scare some kids more than the 1991 version.

There is no language to speak of, and while there are obviously very strong overtones of romance, none of it is physically played out on screen.

There has been a lot of discussion and controversy surrounding the announcement that the filmmakers would include a gay character in “Beauty and the Beast,” and it’s true, they did. I’ll let you know what you can expect from it here, but be aware there are spoilers and I don’t want anyone hoping to avoid them to accidentally stumble upon them. So if you want to avoid spoilers, skip ahead to the “conclusion” portion of the article.

*Spoiler's ahead*

LeFou appears to be infatuated with Gaston throughout the film, but they never come out and say it’s because he’s romantically in love with him. You can read the situation and draw that conclusion, but it’s not spelled out for you. At the very end when everyone is dancing together in the Beast’s ballroom, you see LeFou and another man dance together very briefly, solidifying the overtones alluded to throughout the film.

Personally, I didn’t see this as an issue, but many out there have been curious about this so I added it in there for anyone who has been curious about it.

Conclusion

For the most part, “Beauty and the Beast” is a fairly good time at the theater, and your kids will be entranced by the magic happening on screen. Some of the parents may get a little glassy eyed once or twice, but for the most part I think you’re going to enjoy it.

“Beauty and the Beast” is rated PG for some action violence, peril and frightening images.

John has grown up around movies and annoys friends and family with his movie facts and knowledge. John also has a passion for sports and pretty much anything awesome and it just so happens that these are the three things he writes about.

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