Despite having made the remark on architecture, it is exactly as Cogsworth says in the initial 1991 Disney animated feature "Beauty and the Beast": 'If it isn't Baroque, don't fix it'. He was, of course, paraphrasing the old adage of resisting the temptation to tamper with something which is ticking along smoothly enough for risk of damaging it. But, for whatever reason, Disney have gone against the good clock's advice and thought their incarnation of the centuries old tale of Beauty and the Beast might need some reworking. The result is something actually quite wretched.
It is a tricky thing to wholly put your finger on, but if you agree with me, you'll know exactly what I mean when I say that, after the prelude to the main event, which is the short story of a magical enchantress turning the castle of a self-absorbed prince into a ruin; its inhabitants into furniture and the prince himself into a wolf-like creature, something just begins to 'feel' wrong with this film. It does not disperse either and, consequently, the film never fully recovers.
You know the drill: we're in France, prior to the Revolution; the middle-of-nowhere and a small town home to a young woman named Belle (Emma Watson) and her father (Kevin Kline), both of whom mourn the loss of a mother and a wife. A loner due to her interest in literature, she attracts the skin-deep affection of Gaston (Luke Evans) while, a few miles away, the castle of the damned brew in solitude. In her own domain, Belle doesn't quite fit in; the townsfolk consider her a bit odd, principally for her desire to read so much and she craves more than what she has, which is the same drill every other day of bakers baking their bread; nattering marketplaces; gossip and the like.
The entire situation is put across via a song, but it doesn't feel right - gone is the magnificence of the locality the animation conveyed: the rolling fields; the mountainous backdrop; the wind in the grass on the hillside; the bustle of the town, and gone too is the sense of there being room to breathe that the animation gave the sequence back in the day. Belle, now seemingly living in the town itself and not, as before, in a house on the outskirts further emphasising her detachment, intermingles amongst townsfolk who, devoid now of animation, can neither move nor omit facial expressions in the flexible manner their cartoon counterparts could and so compliment the film.
Arriving at the local library, which is seemingly kept afloat by Belle herself, and despite it looking more like a church whilst sporting a mere handful of books, she returns Romeo and Juliet, which I suppose is another romance about opposites attracting, although doesn't mention the title and so playfully challenges us to keep up with her in that respect. En route home, there is the interaction with Gaston, a vain soldier who has just arrived back from War and seeks Belle's courtship, but she is not interested. Something is amiss here, too - aside from the fact the 1991 animation made a point to render most of the other men in the town old; bedraggled and/or rather ugly, therefore emphasising Gaston's handsomeness, and that Condon's film doesn't even seem to want to adopt that approach, Gaston just doesn't strike us as nasty enough; as narcissistic enough.
Through one thing or another, Belle's father departs the town; not for a fair wherein he will enter an invention, because he is no longer a scientist but an artist, but to... a market. Getting lost en route to a science fair, like in the animation, would be explainable, those probably not occurring very often, but encountering a fork in the road and taking the wrong turn en route to ... a market just doesn't make a whole lot of sense. He winds up at the cursed castle of the prince from our prologue, who has become the eponymous Beast (Dan Stevens), whereby he is captured stealing a rose for his daughter from the gardens, something he thought he'd break off to randomly do whilst fleeing in panic from a tea-cup which began talking to him.
Belle's encountering of the same enchanted setting follows thereafter, but it just never ignites. The red rose in Beast's private quarters wilts and when it is done, the populous will be cursed for all time, but not once is there any sense of actual urgency. The castle is a dull, drab place; all of its interiors look the same, things feel confined. The choreography of the musical numbers is dull. The household items, led by mantelpiece clock Cogsworth and candelabra Lumiere, just aren't as enchanting; have been stripped of all character, to the extent that Cogsworth might not even have been in the film at all. Their interplay used to be genuinely funny, the way the animation had them hop around the castle gave them character - things are just hollow now and you can barely even see their faces. The centrepiece, the ballroom dance between the two titular characters, does not have one-tenth of the majesty that the animation had, and it certainly isn't backed up by Emma Thompson screeching her way through the accompanying number.
Alas, very little works at all, I'm afraid. Condon's film seemed tonally tentative, as if scared of being too scary; a route the animation was not afraid of going down - this is mushier, clumsier; made for families whose children are under seven and who seem to need abrupt shifts in tone to keep up. By half-way, I just wish I was watching the animation again. I'd be surprised if the same wasn't the case with you.
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