I know; but the original is my young lady’s favourite animation as a kid, so we went to see it. Which begs the question: when there’s so much CGI on screen, including Dan Stevens’ beastly face, can you really consider this remake ‘live action’?
When it’s all just an excuse for uber-cynical Disney to wring more money from old properties, it’s even harder to give a fig for singing household utensils, however well Emma Watson flags her feminist credentials.
And as for the alleged ‘gay moment’, I barely noticed. But then I used to live in Brighton… get over it, people. Josh Gadd is camp as Christmas as LeFou, but no worse than C3PO or any number of other comedy sidekicks.
Alan Menkens’ lush score has some good tunes but is ill served by some banal, William McGonagle lyrics (Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice). There are some hideous clunkers.
The musical numbers are lively Hollywood homages to better films; the opening number is a lift of Lionel Bart’s Who Will Buy, while Gaston’s gusto drinking song is part Student Prince, part Ooom-pah-pah (Bart again). Lumiere’s Be Our Guest is a full-on Technicolour romp through Busby Barclay, Esther Williams Golden Age glamour; the visuals are so over the top, I don’t know where Disney has left to go in future.
Bill ‘safe hands’ Condon (Twilight, Mr Holmes) steers the fairy tale through it’s dark perilous bits, through the sparkly musical bits and to a chaotic and ludicrous peasant’s assault on the castle; the production design is impressively realised; the pace is well-judged and there’s a lot of material crammed into the running time, coherently served up by screenwriters Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos. Thankfully there’s less dark reinvention and absurd fairy tale revisionism than in Malificient.
Emma Watson (Potter) excels as Belle, convincingly good and grounded in a way Lilly James’ slightly cloying Cinderella couldn’t carry off, with more substance than Elle Fanning in Malificent. Even when she gets the famous yellow dress. Only one thing worries me; is it love or is it Stockholm Syndrome? Or is it just the size of his library? I’ll leave that with you.
Luke Evan’s (Dracula, Hobbit) has endless fun with ego-maniac Gaston. Dan Stevens does his best through layers of CGI to deliver a grumpy old curmudgeon of a Beast, but somehow you want more. Hattie Morahan is both clumsy narrator and deus-ex progenitor of the whole mess as The Enchantress. Kevin Kline plays it straight for the first time in years and is touching as Belle’s father.
But all that good work is undone by the cartoon capers of the houselhold utensils. Perpetual embarassment Ewan McGregor (The Ghost, Angels and Demons) is truly terrible as the Pythonesque French candlestick Lumiere (so outrageously French that you notice that none of the rest of the cast of French people actually are…). The travesty of our beloved Emma Thompson (Beautiful Creatures) doing a chirpy-cockney teapot in some warped hollywood cliche of chirpy cockney teapots is a crime against cinema. Let’s not mention the irritating boy tea-cup called ‘Chip’. Really? An eighteenth-century French lad called Chip?
McKellen (X-Men) does his best as the pompous old carriage clock, Stanley Tucci (Spotlight) is wasted as the harpsichord; Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s feather duster is mostly ornamental, as pretty thing for Lumiere to chase after; Audra McDonald goes so far over the top as the operatic wardrobe she never really comes down.
It is a handsome, mostly faithful rendering of the Disney cartoon with some tinkering in the score and an extra feminist twist undone by the obligatory fairy tale ending – Prince, castle, library, servants, feudal hierarchy of the pre-revolutionary Ancien Regime…
I wish I liked it more. Better than Malificent, it’s still no Cinderella. RC
Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Director: Bill Condon
Writers: Evan Spiliotopoulos, Stephen Chbosky
Genre: Drama, Musical, Fantasy, Romance
Running time: 129 minutes
Cast: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellan, Emma Thompson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Audra MacDonald, Stanley Tucci, Kevin Kline