The plot is largely similar to the 1991 animated original: Belle (Emma Watson) is captured by the mysterious Beast (Dan Stevens) and must teach him to love in order to break a magical spell. Unfortunately, what worked in the animated version was skimmed or replaced with new things to make it more modern, which doesn’t pay off in any satisfying way.
The execution itself is problematic. The new material comes across as unnecessary and doesn’t really add much to the story. In fact, some of the material addresses plot holes from the original and inadvertently makes them more noticeable.
The new material also causes the film to suffer from pacing issues as well. The pace switches from fast to slow within moments, with slower scenes often focusing on the wrong thing. This makes the first and second acts feel longer than they need to without providing any emotional attachment.
The music echo the plot’s mixture of new and old. While the music is generally well-done, the autotune of Watson and Stevens’ voices largely detracts from their songs. Luke Evans, on the other hand, proves his singing ability as Gaston but is underused. The new songs also seem out of place in the context of the story and drag out moments that could have been expressed in a better way.
The biggest problem is Watson as Belle. Watson is horribly miscast, often coming across as too serious or callous to those around her. Her general lack of emotion through the film’s events emphasize this even more, making her seem lifeless or uninterested during key moments. Watson also uses her natural British accent throughout the film, creating a weird disconnect between the role and the source material.
Stevens puts forth a passable effort as Beast, but this version of the character is more serene than scary. The castle staff (comprised of Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, and Stanley Tucci) provide much-needed energy for the film.
The real standout of the film, surprisingly, is Evans as Gaston. Evans plays the narcissistic villain perfectly, giving off an air of pompousness and emotional instability. Josh Gad compliments him well as LeFou, feeding Evans’ performance with his admiration.
Outside of Gaston, the film’s character development is subpar. Gaston has the most complex arc thanks to a few moments that make him seem more human and his actions believable. Unfortunately, Beast’s character arc is almost non-existent and Belle’s growth occurs too late to really count.
The best aspect of the film is its visuals. The sets and costumes are incredible, looking realistic while keeping a distinctly magical flair. The CGI is also well-done and blends nicely with the actors and backdrops. This helps some specific moments from the animated original translate perfectly to the remake and become more impactful.
Unfortunately, the beautiful visuals can’t keep the film from feeling uninspired. Fans of the original are better off watching that instead while newcomers may be put off by the plot holes and slower pace. Audiences looking solely for eye candy will find it nice, but it’s hard to recommend beyond that.
“Beauty and the Beast” is an unnecessary adaptation that captures the spectacle of the original, but not the substance.