It feels like we've been waiting years for Disney's live-action Beauty and the Beast, and maybe we have. With the movie's theatrical release on the horizon, critics have been to early screenings and tested that tale as old as time.
The film's reviews are neither negative nor positive — it's not a bad movie by objective standards, but falls short of the animated original's innovation because, well, it's not original.
In a review that calls the film a "lifeless recreation," Vulture's Emily Yoshida claims what many other reviewers echo: that the visual effects add style, but no substance.
In the new Beauty and the Beast the word “tangible” is egregiously stretched. After a couple musical numbers, it occurs to you that the film you’re watching is every bit as animated as the original, but it’s somehow turned out less lifelike, despite its considerable technological advantage.
Variety's Owen Glieberman uses the song "Be Our Guest" as an example of how to compare the live-action and animation, revealing that the former "tips between exhilarating and exhausting, because you can feel the special-effects heavy lifting that went into it."
Is the movie as transporting and witty a romantic fantasy as the animated original? Does it fall crucially short? Or is it in some ways better? The answer, at different points in the film, is yes to all three, but the bottom line is this: The new “Beauty and the Beast” is a touching, eminently watchable, at times slightly awkward experience that justifies its existence yet never totally convinces you it’s a movie the world was waiting for.
A live-action remake of the 1991 original was ambitious, and The Hollywood Reporter's Leslie Felperin describes as visually stunning but little more:
Disney’s latest iteration of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast is more than just eye candy. It’s a Michelin-triple-starred master class in patisserie skills that transforms the cinematic equivalent of a sugar rush into a kind of crystal meth-like narcotic high that lasts about two hours. Only once viewers have come down and digested it all might they feel like the whole experience was actually a little bland, lacking in depth and so effervescent as to be almost instantly forgettable.
Chris Nashawaty agreed in his review for Entertainment Weekly, in which he says that the movie "can’t quite figure out what it wants to say that it didn’t already say back in 1991." But the bright light in the film (and in life, probably), is Watson as Belle.
Emma Watson is certainly one of the film’s stronger elements as Belle, the bookish and beautiful free spirit whose imagination and ambitions are too big for her small, provincial French village. With her doe eyes, sunny smile, and the smattering of freckles across the bridge of her nose, Watson is a made-to-order Disney heroine. There is an innocence and intelligence to her that fits the character perfectly. She also, it turns out, can sing. She’s not a belter, thank god, but she sells songs like the film’s great, table-setting opening number “Belle.”
But The New York Times' A.O. Scott found in it a refreshing revival:
Its classicism feels unforced and fresh. Its romance neither winks nor panders. It looks good, moves gracefully and leaves a clean and invigorating aftertaste. I almost didn’t recognize the flavor: I think the name for it is joy.
Judge for yourself when Beauty and the Beast hits theaters March 17.Topics: Beauty and the Beast, dan stevens, emma watson, Entertainment, Movies, reviews