Beauty and the Beast (2017) does exactly what it sets out to do. It brings the magic that the original 1991 animated classic embodies while also adding in some fresh life with some new and adjusted live action characters. Disney’s campaign for creating a new massive library of live-action classic remakes is off to a solid start with last year’s The Jungle Book (2016) and Beauty and the Beast.

Director Bill Condon has a very up-and-down directing career thus far. He made the incredibly profitable (though not-critically acclaimed) The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (2011) and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (2012); most recently Condon showed his talents with the well-received 2015 production Mr. Holmes.

With Beauty and the Beast, Condon returned to some musical roots that he first planted in 2006 with Dreamgirls. While obviously not the same tenure as the early 1960s set drama/musical, Condon does have a way of bringing the music to life in an entertaining and enthralling way.

For myself, the most memorable song from Beauty and the Beast was Gaston. The over-the-top confidence of Luke Evan’s portrayal of the antagonist shines in the spotlight, and Josh Gad’s campiness brings a light-heartiness that endears the audience. Rounding out the top three is my second favorite “Belle” (for setting an accurate and welcoming tone right at the onset) and bronze medalist “Something There” (for showing off the pipes of Beast, played by Dan Stevens, and Belle, played by Emma Watson, in duet form).

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In terms of performances, Stevens stood out the most. His portrayal of Beast is far more enticing than I thought it’d be; I suppose some credit should be given to the special effects staff for allowing the facial expressions of Beast to make an impact on the audience.

And with much sorrow to all Hermione Granger fans…

….Deep Breath….

But Emma Watson is the weakest link of the movie. LET IT BE KNOWN I DO NOT THINK SHE WAS BAD. But in terms of the other major characters, her performance as Belle sank just below the line of demarcation. Again, Watson wasn’t bad, but I was a bit disappointed in her portrayal.

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Also, a shout out to all the “furniture” characters. What made me admire the first Beauty and the Beast was the interactions between Lumière and Cogsworth, and they did not disappoint again. Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellen bring comedic levity throughout the movie with their voice acting as the two main charmers, but shout out to Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts. Had no idea she was in the movie till the credits starting rolling.

While a commendable achievement, this rendition does not warrant the Oscar praise that the animated Beauty and the Beast garnered. For those curious, Alan Menken & Howard Ashman had three songs nominated for Best Original Song with “Be Our Guest,” “Belle,” and eventually Oscar winner “Beauty and the Beast.” Menken was honored with a second winning category with Best Original Score. The movie also had a nomination for Best Sound.

Also, fun fact. Looking for a classic teenage-centric version of this classic fairy tale? Check out Beastly (2011) staring Alex Petyfer, Vanessa Hudgens, and Mary-Kate Olsen. It’s nothing to write home about, but it’s a modern-day life action adaption that takes another look at the loveable fairy tale.

Stanko Rating: B+

 

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