|Directed by:||Bill Condon|
|Written by:||Stephen Chbosky|
|Cast:||Emma Watson, Luke Evans, Dan Stevens, Emma Thompson, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Stanley Tucci, Gugu Mbatha-Raw|
|Studio:||Walt Disney Pictures|
|Genre:||Fantasy, Musical, Romance|
I walked into Beauty and the Beast with sky high expectations based on Disney's recent live action track record and I left with a decent amount of them met. Look, Beauty and the Beast is a masterpiece and one of the single greatest animated movies of all-time. It was the only Animated feature to be nominated for Best Picture at the time and still the only one to do so in the impossibly hard time period when it was only five films. I'm not expecting much but a live action retelling of that same picture. It's hard to make changes from something so perfect to begin with. Luckily this mixes just enough new with the old to create something worthy of Disney canon.
This was a true to its roots broadway inspired musical through and through with larger than life performances and stunning art direction. It was very much the tale as old as time we all remember from the animated movie mixed with juuuust enough differences to expand upon some characterizations. The already stacked cast was out of this world with Luke Evans stealing the show as Gaston and Emma Watson coming out of nowhere to surprise the hell out of me as Belle. She was warm, brutally headstrong without turning into a stereotype and magnetic on screen. She really anchored the story and further cemented her status as a budding actress to be reckoned with. The supporting cast was wonderful with McGregor, Thompson, McKellen and Gad owning their own moments while keeping true to the original characters. Dan Stevens had the presence and vocal range to really make the Beast his own but those effects really let him down. Which leads me to my biggest problems with the film..
It could've been 15-20 minutes shorter and while the Beast's CGI was good and bad at times, it was too distracting during the relationship building moments between he and Belle - which hurt that emotional resonance at the end. It looked best during close-ups so wideshots felt awkward and you could tell that Emma Watson was dancing around with a computer generated figure. It hurt the movie most in the grand ballroom scenes - which is the most iconic moment of the original but here they dropped the ball and almost rushed it a bit. I didn't feel the personal connection during that dance I was supposed to feel and that really dampened the finale. On top of that the costuming was.. off. They tried way too hard to make it old school classic French with wigs and make-up and poofy outfits that just didn't work as well on screen.
However the show-stopping song and dance numbers and already strong source material were able to do the heavy lifting throughout and keep the rest of the film on track. It wound up being a good film that overcame the shortcomings due to a brilliant cast and some stunning art direction. Another director and a bit more time spent on the Beast could've really made this something special, though.