Review by Erin Hawley
Basically: A snobby, hairy man captures a sexy bibliophile. Anthropomorphic silverware and furniture convince her to stay in the castle until her captor figures out how to talk to women.
Admittedly, it’s been awhile since I’ve watched the Disney cartoon, but it was one of my favorites—I found a common soul with Belle and her love of books. As an adult, and as a feminist, I wondered if I could enjoy this film now that I understand the creepy and sexist premise. Ultimately, this live-action adaptation, aware of this pitfall, strays away from the Stockholm syndrome atmosphere by giving Belle more agency and freedom. The plot also goes into Belle’s past with a unique device I won’t spoil. Overall, I liked those changes.
The visuals are stunning, reminding me of 2004’s Phantom of the Opera; it was a delight to watch on the big screen. But the music felt out of place and clunky, as though the narration was built around these well-loved numbers. The songs needed better voices to bring them to life, but the vocal talent is sequestered in the end credits. When you have access to Audra McDonald’s pipes, use them more! I can suspend reality enough to enjoy dubbed performances for the main cast, and there’s no need to be authentic here. But one role stood out: Luke Evans as Gaston. He was the cartoon version come to life, and his scenes were the most enjoyable. I’d watch a spin-off.
In the End: It’s a flashy spectacle that deserves Oscars for set design and wardrobe, but the title characters fail to deliver charming, engaging performances. I’m glad I saw it, but I don’t think it’s worth revisiting.