Love is blind. It’s a notion as old as time, a song as old as rhyme, and the beating heart at the centre of the Beauty and the Beast fairytale. Bill Condon’s adoration for Disney’s 1991 classic is as obvious as it is sightless. This retelling has lost something in translation from animation to live action. Unfortunately, this something is the magic.
So rigid is this Beauty and the Beast’s reverence for its older sibling that any thin attempt at originality – a handful of new songs, some mining of the less excavated narrative veins – violently judder against our bath-warm familiarities. It’s like suddenly tripping over the paving slabs on the street you grew up on.
It’s a shame because this is a sticky pitfall Disney has managed to expertly swerve with their previous remakes. The only joy these rejuvenated meatspace versions can offer is delivering something genuinely new to a classic. But this Beauty and the Beast is just an echo; a blown-up photocopy and a desperate bid to capture lightning twice.
Of all the fresh licks of paint, Emma Watson’s feminist regeneration of Belle is the most compelling. It’s right to have her drive this story – although the cost of banishing Dan Steven’s Beast to far fewer scenes is a high one. As with the first film, there is something microwavably instant about the titular couple’s eventual romance – a more noticeable scar this time around due to this film’s far flabbier running time.
For fans of the original, Beauty and the Beast will come as a colossal disappointment, bringing back into focus an elephant-sized question that nostalgia doesn’t want us to answer: what exactly is the point of these live-action reimaginings? Let the petals fall on this version and retreat back to the definitive: there’s only beauty in the best.
CAST: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Josh Gad, Stanley Tucci, Kevin Kline
DIRECTOR: Bill Condon
WRITERS: Stephen Chbosky, Evan Spiliotopoulos
SYNOPSIS: An adaptation of the Disney fairytale about a monstrous-looking prince and a young woman who fall in love.