Disney Studios has had great success with live-action versions of its animated classics. “The Jungle Book” just won an Oscar and there is a sequel in the works to “Maleficent.” Now comes “Beauty and the Beast” with Emma Watson and Dan Stevens in the title roles. Oscar-winner Bill Condon (“Gods and Monsters”) helms this retelling of the 1991 original that was the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture. Will this 2017 edition follow in its footsteps?
While the box office is sure to be boffo when the film comes out on March 17, the early reviews are less promising. The critics have weighed in with their thoughts and are all over the map as to the merits of this remake. To date, the movie scores 74 at Rotten Tomatoes and 64 at MetaCritic based on notices like the following.
A.O. Scott (The New York Times): “Its classicism feels unforced and fresh. Its romance neither winks nor panders. It looks good, moves gracefully and leaves a clean and invigorating aftertaste. I almost didn’t recognize the flavor: I think the name for it is joy.”
Chris Nashwaty (EW): “It’s fine and funny and sweet and lush and some of the songs are infectious, but I still don’t completely understand why it exists and why they couldn’t do more with it,”
Leslie Felperin (The Hollywood Reporter): “Paradoxically, despite all the palpable budget spend on fancy computer effects, it’s the cheaper, old-school, real-world bits, like the big ensemble dance sequences or the moments when the actors interact directly with each other rather than with green-screen illusions, that pack the biggest wallops.”
Owen Gleiberman (Variety): “The new Beauty and the Beast is a touching, eminently watchable, at times slightly awkward experience that justifies its existence yet never totally convinces you it’s a movie the world was waiting for.”
Dan Callahan (The Wrap): “Condon’s Beauty and the Beast is the kind of enormous production in which it seems as if anxious executives were pressuring and second-guessing the decisions of the creative team. The result is a star-stuffed relay race that looks like an assignment more than anything else.”
Matt Goldberg (Collider): “Everything is lavish and immaculately done when it comes to the costumes and production design, but overall, most of the additions, especially when it comes to new songs or tweaks to the plot, only end up slowing the movie down and detracting from its central love story. This new version of ‘A tale as old as time’ will have you checking your watch.”
Emily Yoshida (New York): “At every turn, the film seems to ask itself if what the original film did was enough, and answers with a definitive ‘no.’ But hey, at least that clock looked real.”
Rodrigo Perez (The Playlist): “While many of the massive practical sets and costumes are impressive on a production design level, there are few other elements worth lauding. Ultimately Beauty and the Beast feels like a cynical rehash seemingly created just to make a fiscal year sound promising to shareholders. This is a product that’s more manufactured than inspired.”