Bethlehem Press

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Review: ‘Beauty’

Friday, March 31, 2017 by PAUL WILLISTEIN pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

The Disney live-action version of “Beauty and the Beast” is a spectacular movie musical that the entire family should enjoy. One of the chief recommendations to see the feature movie is the casting and performance of Emma Watson as Belle. Watson, best-known as Hermione Granger of the “Harry Potter” theatrical movie series.

Watson is seemingly born to play the part of Belle. Her performance in “Beauty and the Beast” recalls the great roles of Audrey Hepburn and Julie Andrews. “Beauty and the Beast” is best when Watson is on screen. Dan Stevens (Mathew Crawley, PBS “Downton Abbey,” 2010-12) is well-cast as The Beast. We see his actual likeness in the prologue, which nicely sets up the exposition of the cursed prince and his equally cursed castle and occupants. And we see him in the finale when the curse is removed.

Luke Evans (Vlad, “Dracula Untold,” 2014) is also a good choice as Gaston. Evans manages to make the narcissistic Gaston not too dislikeable, which is not an easy task.

Kevin Kline is solid and effective as Belle’s father Maurice, and has some memorable on screen moments. Josh Gad as LeFou, Gaston’s sidekick is humorous. The scene where LeFou dances with a man occurs in the finale, although some wink-wink scenes between LeFou and Gaston telegraph his preference. That brief turn on the dance floor at the grand ball resulted in “Beauty and the Beast” not being allowed to be released theatrically in certain nations. The supporting role actors are a hoot, including Ewan McGregor (Lumiere), Ian McKellen (Cogsworth), Emma Thompson (Mrs. Potts), Audra McDonald (Madame Garderobe), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Plumette) and Stan Tucci (Maestro Cadenza).

The live-action “Beauty and the Beast” stands alone, and along side Disney’s 1991 hit animated version. Comparisons do not necessarily need to be made. However, I will make one general observation.

One problem with the live-action version is a matter of scale. The castle staff who are turned into inanimate objects in the animated version existed side by side with Belle and the Beast. In the live-action version, Lumiere, Cogsworth and the Wardrobe, or example, are more or less the size of the original objects, and are depicted more realistically. Cogworth has a steampunk look. Lumiere looks like one of the pieces on a Monopoly board game. That quibble aside, “Beauty and the Beast” is very enjoyable. Director Bill Condon (“The Twilight Saga,” Parts 1, 2012, 11; “Dreamgirls,” 2006; “Kinsey,” 2004; Oscar screenplay recipient “Gods and Monsters,” 1998, which he also directed; Oscar adapted screenplay nominee, “Chicago,” 2003) keeps the story and music flowing. The fight scene between The Beast and Gaston seems more detailed, monumental and action-packed, perhaps to appeal to the younger male demographic audience.

The screenplay, co-written by Stephen Chbosky (screenwriter, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” 2012; “Rent,” 2005) and Evan Spiliotopoulos (“The Huntsman: Winter’s War,” 2016; “Hercules,” 2014), is based on the fairy tale by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont. The music and lyrics by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice is as gorgeous and impressive as the film’s visuals. “Belle,” “Gaston,” “Be Our Guest,” “Evermore,” “How Does a Moment Last Forever,” and of course, the title song, will be remembered long after you depart the movie theater.

“Beauty and the Beast,”MPAA Rated PG (Parental Guidance Suggested. Some Material May Not Be Suitable For Children.) for some action violence, peril and frightening images; Genre: Musical, Fantasy; Run time: 2 hr., 9 min.

Credit Readers Anonymous:“Beauty and the Beast” was filmed at Shepperton Studios and in London, England.

Box Office,March 24: “Beauty and the Beast” continued its reign at No. 1 with $88.3 million, $316.9 million, two weeks, keeping “Power Rangers” opening at No. 2, with $40.5 million, one weeks; 3. “Kong: Skull Island,” $14.4 million, $133.5 million, three weeks; 4. “Life,” $12.6 million, opening; 5. “Logan,” $10.1 million, $201.4 million, four weeks; 6. “Get Out,” $8.6 million, $147.4 million, five weeks; 7. “CHiPs,” $7.6 million, opening; 8. “The Shack,” $3.7 million, $49 million, four weeks; 9. “The Lego Batman Movie,” $1.9 million, $170.8 million, seven weeks; 10. “The Belko Experiment,” $1.8 million; $7.5 million, two weeks.

Unreel,March 31:“Ghost in the Shell,”PG-13: Rupert Sanders directs Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbæk, Takeshi Kitano and Juliette Binoche, in the science-fiction thriller about a woman saved from death after a crash by eugenics to become a crime-fighter.

“The Boss Baby,”PG: Tom McGrath directs the voice talents of Miles Christopher Bakshi, Alec Baldwin, Eric Bell Jr. and Steve Buscemi in the animation feature film comedy about a suit-wearing and briefcase-carrying baby who tries to stop the evil plot of the CEO of the Puppy Company.

“The Zookeeper’s Wife,”PG-13: Niki Caro directs Jessica Chastain, Johan Heldenbergh, Daniel Brühl and Timothy Radford in the biographical drama based on the true story of Warsaw Zookeepers who helped save hundreds during the German invasion.

Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes