by Paislee House, Film Critic
In what is almost a shot-for-shot remake of the 1991 animated film, the new, live-action “Beauty and the Beast” somehow manages to be a disappointment. The best part about “Beauty and the Beast” is still the music, but it’s the parts in between that don’t live up to the hype. As someone in their mid-20s, I grew up with many classic, animated Disney musicals. While I sat in the theater, with familiar songs ringing in my ears, I could feel the nostalgia coursing through my veins. However, nostalgia does not make a movie good and “Beauty and the Beast” is mediocre at best.
The same familiar characters all return more or less the same, but the character of La Fou changed in some very specific ways. One could file it under a Disney faux pas. In what was most likely an attempt to be more inclusive, Disney gave a minor character a queer twist that was nothing more than a checklist of stereotypes. La Fou can be seen lusting after Gaston, being effeminate, and serving as comic relief to Gaston’s hard-to-stomach misogyny. The movie corrects itself toward the end, but the decision to give La Fou a specific kind of flair seems half-hearted and unnecessary.
Along these same lines there is much to be said about the poor writing in the film. Though the film stays mostly true to the original, there are some new songs and additional backstory given to Belle and the Beast. These additions do little for the story and serve no real purpose. Again, it just feels as though someone was trying to check all of the boxes. Much of the dialogue was predictable and the actors did what they could with what they were given. The star of the show is Ewan McGregor as Lumière, who provides many laughs and a convincing French accent. As the titular characters, Emma Watson and Dan Stevens feel flat surrounded by the enchanted palace furniture. There is little chemistry between the two and their lines seem forced. Whether this is the fault of writing or acting ability is up for debate, but I’m leaning toward the weak writing.
With all that being said, “Beauty and the Beast” is not a disaster. The film’s sets and CGI are absolutely stunning. The opening of the film, as the tale of the Beast is told, is one of the most beautiful parts of the movie. A ballroom full of light, 19th century French decor, and beautiful gowns is a striking image that stayed in the back of my mind throughout the entire film. Given that some of the main characters are a Beast and living furniture, there is heavy use of CGI in “Beauty and the Beast,” but it never feels overdone, only necessary. The classic, crumbling castle is another high point in the film. Exploring the castle with Belle and the other characters is easy on the eyes and enjoyable. The thrills and mystery of the West Wing where the magic rose floats in its protective glass case is reimagined in a lovely way. Though the stunning visuals can’t make up for what is ultimately a lackluster remake.
Though the new “Beauty and the Beast” brought out an old love of the original, it never comes close to matching it. If you find yourself feeling nostalgic for the original, I suggest dusting off the VHS in your basement and saving yourself a trip to the theater.