Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellan, Emma Thompson, Audra McDonald, Stanley Tucci, Gugu Mbatha Raw, Nathan Mack
Directed By: Bill Condon
Plot: It’s a tale as old as time. Belle (Watson) is a bookworm stuck in a small village with her inventor father (Kline), and trying to dodge the advances of the town hunk (Evans), who is a bit of a lunk as well. After her father is captured, Belle rushes off to his rescue, and comes across the Beast (Stevens), a shell of a man who has been cursed, as well as the rest of his household, until he finds someone to love… and who loves him back.
What Works: This film looks stunning. I loved every part of it. The character designs on Lumiere and Cogsworth especially are fantastic, and I actually thought the Beast looked realistic as well. I know that’s been a debate topic for critics, but I liked Beast. I thought his facial expressions felt real. I don’t know how much of this was motion capture, but kudos to Dan Stevens if it was. The acting is really good too. I liked everyone in their roles, acting wise. Singing, I would say Luke Evans was a standout for me. I wasn’t expecting him to be this good, and he blew me away. I expected Gad and McDonald to be able to hold their own, but Evans’ big booming voice caught me off guard. Stevens also gets his chance to shine in the newly written Evermore, which is somewhat more hopeful than the Broadway hit If I Can’t Love Her. I didn’t mind the additions to the backstory, which helped flesh out Belle and Beast a little more. There were many moments I found genuinely touching, and I was moved by the end of the film.
What Doesn’t Work: I have to take away points for the overuse of pitch correction on Emma Watson. If she was truly that bad of a singer, then it is time to hire someone to sing for her. The solution wasn’t to make her sound like T-Pain. When the rest of your cast is able to sing and handle the music given, and you have one girl who sounds like a robot, it is very off putting. She couldn’t have been that bad. Pitch correction here and there, sure, I’ll forgive that. But it seemed like someone was just holding down the button and making everything sound like that, and I can imagine the direction was “for consistency” purposes. Well, fuck you then. I would have rather heard Watson pulling a Russell Crowe over a Kanye West. In fact, that’s my greatest gripe with the film. I have some side gripes, like sometimes it looks like Watson isn’t quite looking at Lumiere or Cogworth. Her point of reference is a bit off. She’s just generically looking in their direction, but not really seeing them. It’s lazy filmmaking, but it’s not a film killer. Also, I think Watson should have spent a bit more time with Dan Stevens, because at the end of the film, I felt like she had noticeably less chemistry with human-form Beast, than the CGI version. Dan Stevens seems to be a perfectly attractive guy, I don’t know what was up with Emma at that point. Maybe they just didn’t have a connection?
Final Word: While not the fault of the film, all this fuss over the “exclusively gay moment” just seems idiotic now that I’ve seen that moment. It’s so fleeting and so brief that had it never been brought up ahead of time, I’m not sure people would have cared. For those wanting to know, I’ll tell you. LeFou dances with a man. He does this for about two seconds. There’s a lot happening around this time, and I doubt anyone would have noticed. Otherwise, this is the same LeFou from the cartoon (who was pretty obviously gay then too). He fawns over Gaston, leading him to sing an entire song about how amazing Gaston is. There’s no gay kiss. No gay sex scene. Your children will survive and be fine. It’s not my favorite live action Disney adaptation, and in the end, I still prefer the animated film. However, I do think it is a good film, and mostly lived up to my expectations.
FINAL GRADE: B+