You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

“Beauty and the Beast” beautiful to look at, beastly to get through


“Tale as old as time …”

Disney, in all its wisdom, decides to capitalize on an animated classic and turn it into a live-action film. Sometimes it works, especially when it tells a different part of the story or tells the story in a different way. 2014’s “Maleficent” with Angelina Jolie worked because it wasn’t the frame-for-frame story of “Sleeping Beauty.” “Mirror Mirror” with Julia Roberts and Lily Collins in 2012 also was a different take on “Snow White.”

And then there is last year’s “The Jungle Book,” which was beautiful to look at and might have been more successful if it had not tried to incorporate all of the music of the 1967 animated film. Of course, what it had going for it was that many of today’s kids had never seen the original movie, and some of their parents might not have, either. They weren’t judging that “Book” by the previous “Book.”

“Beauty and the Beast” doesn’t have that same advantage. Belle is one of the Disney princesses. Today’s generation of kids have watched the 1991 version over and over again on DVD. Many of them have Belle costumes and dolls. They can sing all the songs and know how they should sound. And their parents also know that version very well.

From the very start, audiences who come to the live-action “Beauty and the Beast” with the 1991 version in their heads will be thrown. The film starts off before the curse. We see the palace in all its glory. We meet Lumière and Cogsworth and Mrs. Potts and Chip and Madame Garderobe and Maestro Cadenza before they were turned into objects by the curse. And we see the Beast as human (played by Dan Stevens, of “Downton Abbey” fame, who is somehow unattractive in human form and better looking as a beast. How is that possible?).

Yes, we get to see the curse happen in more vivid ways than in the storybook telling of the animated film, but the mystery of not really knowing these characters in human form is gone and with it some of the magic of when they become human once again at the end.

The live-action version is full of backstories — how Belle lost her mother, how Beast lost his mother and became hardened, who the enchantress is, why the village has no idea that there’s a castle not far away, who Chip’s father is, and why it is that only Belle can read. This makes for a very long movie. At more than two hours, more than a few parents in our screening had to get up with young kids for bathroom breaks. It also means that new songs have been added, ones that weren’t in the animated version or the Broadway musical.

The movie opens with an operatic number by Audra McDonald, who plays Madame Garderobe, and closes with her operatic version of “Beauty and the Beast,” which was unnecessary. Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts sings a much better version during the film, much more soothing and akin to the Angela Lansbury version of 1991.

All of the original songs in the animated version return, but the timing or phrasing is off just enough to be slightly jarring to people who have memorized the 1991 soundtrack.

Emma Watson as Belle surprises. Yes, she’s not as strong a singer as Paige O’Hara (the 1991 Belle), but she holds her own. She is charming and spunky and carries this film. Her thick English accent, though, makes it impossible to believe that she lives in France.

Also surprising is Kevin Kline as her father. He carries a tenderness with him that the original character never had. Instead of the crazy tinker, he’s a thoughtful artist who loves his daughter dearly and has never really gotten over the loss of his wife.

Many of the other actors — Thompson, Josh Gad as LeFou, Luke Evans as Gaston, Ewan McGregor as Lumière and Ian McKellen as Cogsworth — feel like they are playing the role of the actors who came before them. They try hard to sound exactly like them both in speech and song.

In addition to the backstories and additional songs, this “Beauty and the Beast” has much more humor, mainly from Gad’s LeFou. At first, it’s kind of fun, but after awhile, you’ll be saying, “Enough already.” The film also is filled with much more diversity in the people at the castle and in the village, but it all feels like diversity for diversity’s sake and doesn’t extend beyond McDonald in a major role.

The film is beautiful. Really beautiful. You want to go there, frolic in that countryside, study in that library, dance in that ballroom.

If you loved the 1991 animated version, you may be disappointed, but if you’ve never seen it, this could be the “Beast” for you.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Movies & TV

One Night in Austin: Americana adventures in the summer heat
One Night in Austin: Americana adventures in the summer heat

We wrapped up our yearlong “One Night” series back in March, after checking out dozens of local acts on monthly smorgasbord tours of Austin music hot spots large and small.
Grilling? Don’t hold the mayo!
Grilling? Don’t hold the mayo!

This is the season of outdoor parties and cookouts, as those of us self-professed grill masters and weekend warriors deftly show off our live-fire cooking skills in front of family and friends. That is, until the grill flares up and those beautiful steaks are reduced to charcoal and we’re peeling them off the grill through a cloud of smoke. It&rsquo...
‘Baby Driver’ director Edgar Wright talks music, stunts and Jon Hamm
‘Baby Driver’ director Edgar Wright talks music, stunts and Jon Hamm

Director Edgar Wright’s “Baby Driver” hits theaters this week after having its world premiere at South by Southwest in March. The heist thriller features Ansel Elgort, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey, Lily James and a whole mess of great songs. Wright, perhaps best known for the Cornetto film trilogy of “Shaun of the Dead...
Enjoy summer with Trailer Food Tuesday, Jaws on the Water and more
Enjoy summer with Trailer Food Tuesday, Jaws on the Water and more

1. “La La Land” In Concert 8 p.m. June 30. $39-$79. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. 512-474-5664, thelongcenter.org. If you loved the award-winning score for “La La Land” from composer Justin Hurwitz, soon you can hear it like never before: performed live by the Austin Symphony Orchestra as the movie plays. The winner...
‘American Portrait’ photo exhibit extended
‘American Portrait’ photo exhibit extended

Art “This Land: An American Portrait.” Stephen L. Clark Gallery celebrates the release of Jack Spencer’s new book from the University of Texas Press. The exhibit was to wrap this month but has been extended through Aug. 5. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment. 1101 W. Sixth St. 512-477-0828, stephenlclarkgallery.com...
More Stories