Emma Watson and Dan Stevens star in Disney’s live-action remake of the 1991 animated hit.
Directed by Bill Condon, this film is about refining the original story (written by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve in 1740) for a modern audience.
The beginning of the film introduces the proud prince (Stevens). Within minutes, he’s cursed by a passing enchantress* who comes back into the plot later on. There is also a subplot exploring how the relationship between Belle (Watson) and her father (Kevin Kline) is strained* by the fact that he’s never explained why her mother isn’t around.
Elsewhere, various supporting characters are fleshed out and filled in. The most felicitous* example is what’s been done with LeFou (Josh Gad), the buddy of the story’s main bad guy, Gaston (Luke Evans). LeFou here is a man hopelessly in unrequited love* with his straight best friend.
The film’s weakest link is the look of the digital characters. While the effects deployed to render the Beast and his various enchanted servants — Lumiere (Ewan McGregor), Cogsworth (Condon regular Ian McKellen), Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson) — are marvels in terms of texture, especially as their digital fur, brass or ceramic surfaces react to the environment around them, the faces are too often stiff* and lacking in expression.
The musical numbers are among the best bits of the film, especially “Gaston,” the LeFou-led tribute to our boastful villain that adds punch* to the first part of the film. It’s a delicious moment, traditional in all the right ways. That said, it’s hard not to wonder how much of the singing throughout is entirely* the work of the actors credited in the final roll and how much was refined by Auto-Tune-style software. As always, the story encourages viewers to look beyond the superficial* and to be compassionate, curious, humble*, and generous.