After Cinderella and The Jungle Book, Disney continues its trend of making serviceable but unspectacular live-action updates of its classic animated properties with director Bill Condon’s Beauty and the Beast.
Emma Watson plays Belle, the bookish outsider in a small French village being pursued by the arrogant Gaston (Luke Evans). Her inventor father (Kevin Kline) becomes a prisoner in a castle owned by a beast (Dan Stevens), a rich young man cursed to that fate by an enchantress he refused to shelter in a storm. The curse, which also applies to Stevens’ servants who have been turned into living pieces of furniture, can only be lifted if the Beast gets a woman to love him.
When Watson shows up to trade places with her father, a slow relationship begins between her and the Beast. The original film ran a compact 84 minutes, but the new version runs 129 minutes. It’s very leisurely in putting Watson and Stevens together. Despite Watson and Stevens’ talents, the relationship never quite soars on screen. The film is at its liveliest when the servants are interacting with each other or Watson.
But for much of its running time, Beauty and the Beast moves on cruise control. Disney’s too savvy to release a total turkey, but it seems like the creative innovation that led to the Mouse’s artistic renaissance from The Little Mermaid through The Lion King is lacking.