Sunday, March 19, 2017
NEW "BEAST" A BEAUTY
Starring Emma Watson,
Directed by Bill Condon
Written by Stephen Chbosky, Evan Spiliotopoulos
Runtime 129 minutes
Highly enjoyable live-action version of the 1991 Disney animated musical.
When a selfish prince is cursed by an enchantress to look like a beast, the only cure for the spell is true love.
Remaining close to the Disney blockbuster, this new version keeps things fresh with additional back story and a few new songs. It's a superior experience--Emma Watson is excellently cast as the heroine, Belle--but the film still lacks the authenticity and charm of Jean Cocteau's 1946 classic.
Live-action, and packed with computer-generated images. Pretty much just like watching the other one, except better. This opens the door to a complete hauling over of any and all Disney cartoon movies. With built-in markets assured, it's a natural fit fully to be expected. Just as Hammer films in the '50s colorfully re-made black-and-white Universal horror pictures from the '30s, Disney will likely update oldies with available technology.
Though not a shot-for-shot production by any stretch, neither does this version significantly depart from the '91 story. Belle loves books, subsequently standing out from the provincial crowd of the old French town. Equally brainy and beautiful, she looks after her eccentric father, Maurice (Kline), and looks out for unwanted advances from the narcissistic Gaston (Evans).
When Maurice stumbles on a magic castle in the forest one night, he finds himself a prisoner of the Beast (Stevens). But Belle saves him by working out a bargain with the Beast to take her father's place. Her presence in the castle raises the hopes of more than just the Beast, however, for the enchanted residents of the castle are anxious to return to human form.
The action takes place in France, yet inexplicably the cast predominately speaks in prestige British dialect. Somehow this has gotten common. Norse gods in Marvel movies have to be British. If there was a new version of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, even that would probably have to be British, too.
Fun as it is to watch, one can't help but wonder how things would go if the form of the Beast was something less cuddly and more repellent. Plus, what if he wasn't rich? At the end of the day, it's the story of a small-town gal who stoops to settle for a guy with a castle. Even so, the presentation is pleasing to the eye.