April 25, 2017

Disney goes back to one of their greatest hits with “Beauty and the Beast”


There’s something interesting about seeing the cinema of your youth get redone. Maybe it’s just doubly weird for me today, considering it’s my birthday (Happy Birthday to me as I turn the dreaded age of 30). For the past few years, Disney has made essentially a cottage industry out of redoing some of their classic back catalogue. In many cases, it has been live action versions of a beloved animated flick. This week, they have a new film of that ilk hitting theaters in Beauty and the Beast. It’s a bold move, especially considering that animated movie is an undisputed all timer and the first cartoon ever nominated for Best Picture, still one of only three to this day, with its nomination being the only one while in a field of just five. That does put some pressure on this one to live up to its namesake. Regardless, it’s going to make a mint, that much is certain.

The film is a mostly faithful take on the animated classic. We still follow Belle (Emma Watson), a young woman who winds up a captive of the Beast (Dan Stevens), who used to be an unhappy prince. Taking the place of her father (Kevin Kline), Belle is initially uneasy about the Beast, though obviously they will soon fall in love. The same beats of the cartoon are essentially followed, just with live action replacing animation. Bill Condon directs, while the screenplay adaptation is by Stephen and Evan Spiliotopoulos. The cast includes Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Haydn Gwynne, Gerard Horan, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Audra McDonald, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Hattie Morahan, Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci, and more. The score is from Disney standby Alan Menken, while Tobias A. Schliessler is behind the camera handling the cinematography.

Reviews have been a bit mixed on the mixed side, though it seems like most of my colleagues like it well enough. Essentially, it works best if you’re just along for the ride. Too much of a love or too much of a dislike for the original probably won’t work in your favor. The normal amount of effort and money is on display, so if you like flourishes like that, Disney has got you covered here. It’s not going to be a critical smash like The Jungle Book or surprise like Cinderella, but it won’t be quickly forgotten about like Maleficent, that’s for sure.

In terms of awards potential, Beauty and the Beast seems like a technical contender, at best. Still, Disney has money to burn and will likely launch campaigns in Best Picture, Best Director (for Condon), Best Actor (for Stevens), Best Actress (for Watson), Best Supporting Actor (for Evans, Gad, and/or Kline), Best Adapted Screenplay (for Chbosky and Spiliotopoulos), Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup & Hairstyling, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Original Score, and Best Visual Effects. Again, it’s almost certainly techs or bust here, with Production Design and Costume Design seeming like places to watch out for this one. It’s a long road ahead though, so nothing is set in stone.

Overall, it seems certain that this weekend will see scores of people go to see Beauty and the Beast. It isn’t going to make any top ten lists at the end of the year, but it is going to entertain a lot of families in the weeks and months to come. People my age (cough 30 now cough) who grew up watching the original multiple times and seeing it initially in theaters might feel a strong connection bringing their own children to this one. Especially if that’s the case, look for this to be an absolute juggernaut at the box office. There’s more than enough beauty to be found in this one, so expect it to sustain for a while. This is another hit from the mouse, no doubt about it…

Be sure to check out Beauty and the Beast, in theaters everywhere this Friday!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He also contributes to several other film-related websites.

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