Beauty and the Beast is a live-action remake of the 1991 animated classic, adding new songs and scenes, still telling a tale as old as time, albeit a very familiar one.
Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, and Kevin Kline all shine brightest in this ensemble full of stellar performances as Belle, Beast, and Maurice, respectively. They were all perfect choices for their own roles; no matter what you think of Watson’s singing, she is great on the acting side. Stevens does a superb job in showing Beast’s rage and soft-heartedness. Kline brought something new to Maurice and made him a lot less goofy.
All of the visual effects are excellent. While they may not be impressive as The Jungle Book from last year, all of the characters such as Lumière and Cogsworth move and speak smoothly enough that there is no fault in the special effects. Even when Lumière’s lover, Plumette, who is inexplicably half-swan in this iteration, flies about, she looks real.
A few songs have been created for this adaptation, and they all fit into the story properly. Two stand out as feeling necessary-“Days in the Sun” and “Evermore.” The former is performed by Watson and the castle staff, the latter by Stevens. “Days in the Sun” is similar to the unimpressive and tacked-on “Human Again” from the special DVD edition of the animated film in terms of expressing how the characters long to live normal lives again. The song fit the scene well, transpiring just after Beast saves Belle from the wolves and after she has spent plenty of time in the castle to get to know the staff. By this point, we see Belle wanting to leave the castle on three different occasions, and even though she is beginning to care for Beast, we know that her desire to leave is greater at this point. Stevens’ solo song, “Evermore,” is performed after Belle leaves to save Maurice. This is a nice addition for two reasons. First, the only time Beast sang in the animated film was in “Something There,” so seeing the filmmakers give Stevens more music material was nice. Secondly, Beast mainly expressed his emotions through roars and happy facial expressions, so when he sings of how much he will think of Belle while she is gone, it adds more dimensions to his character.
Of all the new scenes that were created for this film, the most prominent is the storyline of what happened to Belle’s mother. She asks Maurice what happened to her, but he never tells her. She does discover the truth, and what Maurice did at the end of her life develops his own character further, as well as Beast’s, who initially saw him as a thief. He sees good in Maurice, strengthening Beast’s relationship with Belle. This story fits naturally into the film, which can be hard to do when adding new scenes to a remake.
There are several major flaws of this movie. The sound of the lyrics being sung, especially those of Watson’s, make it obvious that the actors are lip-synching. Granted, all singers sound quite different when performing live, and it is easy to see why the filmmakers would choose not to have their actors sing on-set (mostly technical reasons), but the way every song sounds in the end is diminished.
Furthermore, as good as this cast sings, they simply don’t perform as beautifully as that of the animated film. Their lyrics were more fluid and felt genuine; that is not the case here.
Finally, this remake is so much like the original that they are nearly mirror images of each other. So much dialogue is recycled, and nearly every scene is constructed the same way, beat-for-beat. This film does not attempt anything outside of adding new songs and scenes to be its own adaptation, and it suffers for it.
In the end, Beauty and the Beast works as its own film, but when put against the animated film, it pales in comparison due to average singing and reliance on the original’s script.
Beauty and the Beast gets a B
“Young girls are told you have to be the delicate princess. Hermione taught them that you can be the warrior.”-Emma Watson
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