Beauty and the Beast Family

'Beauty and the Beast' Film Review: Not quite perfect, but still perfectly enchanting

March 17, 2017Ben MK

From the moment Emma Watson strolls onto the screen as Belle in Disney's new live-action reimagining of Beauty and the Beast, you know you're in for a treat. The sets, the costume and makeup design, the songs — all of it has been carefully crafted to evoke the memory of the 1991 animated movie. After all, remaking their back catalog of animated features into live-action spectacles has become the studio's bread and butter, and they've gotten pretty darn good at it.

Director Bill Condon's retelling of the classic fairy tale — which has itself been adapted for film and television a countless number of times — is no exception to the rule. Co-starring a laundry list of Hollywood talent, including Dan Stevens, Kevin Kline, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci, Audra McDonald, Ewan McGregor, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Ian McKellen, it takes the tried-and-true formula Disney has been perfecting over the course of the past few years with films like 2016's The Jungle Book, and it even turns it up a notch or two here and there.

The story by Steven Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos remains ever so familiar, focusing on the love story between the beautiful but misfit Belle and the even more misfit Beast (Stevens), a handsome but selfish prince cursed with a feral outward appearance. Two kindred spirits who don't even realize they're kindred spirits, at least not until fate conspires to bring them together, their relationship gets off to a rocky start after Belle finds herself imprisoned in the Beast's imposing castle, but soon blossoms into something neither of them expected.

Then there's Gaston, played here by Evans with a note-perfect, half-cocked smirk, and the love-to-hate-him villain is just as vain and despicable as you might remember. Intent on wooing Belle and making her his wife, he's the main obstacle standing in the way of Belle and the Beast's happiness. However, it's Gad as Gaston's loyal compatriot and comic sidekick, LeFou, who steals every scene the two share together. Suffice to say, the rumors of the revisions to this character's sexual preferences negatively impacting the movie have been greatly exaggerated.

There is one legitimate gripe worth mentioning, though, and that's the quality of the VFX used to bring the Beast to life. If this were a minor character, it may have been less inexcusable. But this is one of the movie's central figures; yet, the CGI used to realize the Beast is noticeably artificial, oftentimes taking viewers out of the picture. That being said, you do grow accustomed to him over time, so much so that when the prince finally regains his human form (no spoilers there, hopefully), you might even find yourself wishing for him to transform back.

Otherwise, the performances are all solid across the board and the production design is grand and glamorous, but of course, it's the songs that prove to be the undisputed highlight of the movie. From Watson's charmingly low-key rendition of "Belle," to McGregor crooning "Be Our Guest" in a cartoonish French accent, you'd be hard-pressed to find a sour note among the bunch. Yes, there's even a brand-new CĂ©line Dion track, titled "How Does a Moment Last Forever," because, frankly, no Beauty and the Beast remake would be complete without it.

Beauty and the Beast releases March 17th, 2017 from Walt Disney Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG for some action violence, peril and frightening images. Its runtime is 2 Hrs. 9 Mins.

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