The New BEAUTY AND THE BEAST Is Less Than A Masterpiece
How do you measure up to a masterpiece?

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The Disney Remakes, which is what I will call this new era of live-action Disney movies based on beloved animated features, have thus far found interesting ways to improve upon the originals. That becomes difficult when you’re dealing with an outright masterpiece, one of the highlights of the Disney Renaissance, Beauty and the Beast.

This new Beauty and the Beast is like the old Beauty and the Beast. Belle is a weirdo bookworm in a small town that doesn’t see the world like she does. Her father is taken prisoner by a beast, she trades her life for his and she falls in love with the Beast. It’s got all the same songs, plus some new ones, and a stellar cast.

Seriously, this is a stellar cast. Emma Watson is basically what would happen if you took animated Belle and turned her into a real person.¬†She looks the part and plays Belle as more of a fierce and fearless do’er rather than a dreamer or someone who has her head stuck in the clouds, wondering about the world beyond the little village. In theory, it’s cool that Belle tinkers and invents things. In practice, however, it feels a little out of place. Largely because she doesn’t really get to put that ingenuity to good use. The rest of the movie isn’t built to take advantage of that new trait, so it just kinda flatlines. Her foil, Dan Stevens’ Beast, is pretty damn wonderful. Stevens once again displays his unbelievable charm, and he manages to get it across motion capture and CG work. A CG version of the Beast has the potential to dive into dumb territory, but it doesn’t, and a lot of that has to do with Stevens’ work.

Luke Evans and Josh Gad are the stars of the show here. Their chemistry is electric, and Evans shines on screen in every appearance. He injects the film with a verve, and you can’t wait to see what this Gaston is going to do next. Le Fou, on the other hand, is silly and slyly points out things the audience might be thinking, subverting some of the movie (specifically Gaston). He also gets a bit of a change but, again, that change doesn’t amount to much.

Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellan, Emma Thompson and company are superb as Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts and the rest of the furniture. In fact, if you told me Ewan McGregor was in this movie I wouldn’t have believe you. Because, like, where is he? He completely disappears, even when he’s revealed at the end of the movie (spoilers?).

On the whole, Beauty and the Beast seems to want to tinker with things just to tinker with them. A lot of the songs are ever-so-slightly changed, just enough to make them different but not enough to make you realize they’re changed until you go back and listen to the original versions. There are also new songs, but one of them is glossed over and the other one is… fine? You’re definitely not going to leave the theater with its tune stuck in your head. You will, however, still have Be Our Guest and Beauty and the Beast and Gaston stuck in your head.

The film does a good job brining all these sequences to life. Be Our Guest is absolutely spectacular, a true showstopper is probably the best way to translate an animated sequence into a live-action one. The filmmakers, including director Bill Condon, really seem to be having a great time throwing whatever they can at that sequence, making it bigger and bigger. On the other hand, there’s a great deal of restraint in Beauty and the Beast. They fancy it up a little, but it’s nothing that’s going to ruin your enjoyment. Gaston, on the other hand, is a raucous time. It lacks the absurd charm of the original, which has a weird antler collection and Gaston swallowing eggs whole, but it gets as close as it possibly can without getting stupid.

This Beauty and the Beast is a really charming experience. It’s entertaining and pleasant and will put you in a good mood. If the film wasn’t so obvious about tinkering just to tinker, desperately reaching around for a reason to exist, it would be an even smoother experience. The film does fix several things about the original movie, mostly at the script level, to smooth things alone, but for as much good it does it does an equal amount of unnecessary stuff.

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