It’s hard to believe it took me this long to get around to watching this. Part of it was my own fault; I was procrastinating a lot. I was afraid this movie would destroy my childhood love of the animated version, which is still one of my favorite Disney films. The good news is that it didn’t–it was much better than I was expecting although I did not find it to be the smashing success so many other people thought it was.
By now you already know the plot, so I’ll just skip that part and go straight to my opinion. My biggest complaint about the movie is that they really needed to cast someone other than Emma Watson as Belle. Her voice sounded more than half computerized, indicating a generous application of autotune. I don’t mind if autotune is used to tidy up a singer’s performance, but I do mind if it was so heavily applied that the singer doesn’t sound human anymore! Maybe you should, I don’t know, cast someone who doesn’t need so much post-production help. What made it particularly jarring was that it was obvious everyone else could sing with little to no autotune required. Her acting was fine, but the singing could have been so much better. Everyone else was fine, though, and I was pleased to see that Luke Evans was every bit as awesome as Gaston as I thought he was going to be.
This live-action version had some new songs added, and I’m sad to say they just weren’t in the same league as the originals–or even the songs from the stage production. “Evermore” was arguably the best of the lot, but even it lacked the emotional power and depth of some of the older songs. Personally I think the film would have been much better suited if it had kept “If She Can’t Love Me” from the stage production, which occupies roughly the same space in the story.
No spell has been broken;
No words have been spoken.
No point anymore
If she can’t love me.
No hope she would do so;
No dream to pursue, so
I finally know
That I shall always be
In this hopeless state
And condemned to wait,
Wait for death to set me free.
The good news is that the original songs were performed with every bit of passion and enthusiasm they deserved. My two favorite performances were “Gaston” and “Be Our Guest”; the visuals on the latter were especially amazing.
One of the things that I found surprising was the fact that I felt sympathy for Le Fou–he spent pretty much the entire movie watching his oldest friend turn into a monster and not knowing how to put a stop to it. There were times he tried to stand up to Gaston and get him to stop, but Gaston always ended up bullying him into complicity. In a way it almost felt that the story of the Beast’s redemption and Gaston’s fall were paralleling each other, and that was one of the things I genuinely liked about this version.
Final verdict: it’s not as good as the 1991 animated version, but it’s still a good movie in its own right. I also encourage you to check out the 2014 French version that I reviewed earlier this year. I spotted some similarities between that version and this one, most notably in set design and shot framing, so I wonder if someone at Disney watched the French version and got some inspiration.