After Maleficent, Cinderella, and The Jungle Book, Disney’s latest live-action retelling of an animated classic now asks whether “the tale as old as time” still holds up today? The first reviews for Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson as Belle and Dan Stevens as the cursed prince, have arrived with mixed reactions.
Whether “a lifeless recreation of the original” or a “lavish and lovely take,” many foresee the film winning over fans of the 1991 original, but it could have gone further. “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,” EW’s Chris Nashawaty writes.
He explains, “Directed by movie-musical veteran Bill Condon (Dreamgirls and the script for Chicago), Beauty and the Beast is a movie that can’t quite figure out what it wants to say that it didn’t already say back in 1991 — when it was the first full-length animated film to be nominated for the best picture Oscar (and this was when there were only five nominees in the category, too!)”
Beauty and the Beast features a star-studded cast (Luke Evans, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, and more), plus new and old songs to liven audiences. Various critics pointed to Watson, Stevens, Evans, and Gad as standouts, while others cited poor casting choices, rushed plot, and “unnecessary” musical numbers.
See more reviews of the film below.
Leslie Felperin (The Hollywood Reporter)
“It’s a Michelin-triple-starred master class in patisserie skills that transforms the cinematic equivalent of a sugar rush into a kind of crystal meth-like narcotic high that lasts about two hours. Only once viewers have come down and digested it all might they feel like the whole experience was actually a little bland, lacking in depth and so effervescent as to be almost instantly forgettable. 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)
“Going into Beauty and the Beast, the sheer curiosity factor exerts a uniquely intense lure. Is the movie as transporting and witty a romantic fantasy as the animated original? Does it fall crucially short? Or is it in some ways better? The answer, at different points in the film, is yes to all three, but the bottom line is this: 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)
“Of the leading actors, only Stevens is able to make something of his part as written, and he reveals a strong tenor singing voice of his own here. His Beast is amusingly huffy and sulky and proud, and his blue eyes glow with a kind of warmth that come close to making the romance between the Beast and Belle somewhat believable, if only Condon would give him just a little more time to develop it. 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.”
Britt Hayes (ScreenCrush)
“To say that the first trailer for Beauty and the Beast was evocative of the 1991 animated classic would be an understatement; it was a live-action carbon copy, and if Disney’s remake of Cinderella was any indication, we were in for yet another tedious — if visually stunning, well-acted, and beautifully designed — exercise in nostalgia. But Bill Condon’s live-action update of Beauty and the Beast is more reimagining than remake, a lavish and lovely take on a familiar tale (as old as time, no doubt) that enriches its source material without betraying it.”
Mike Ryan (UPROXX)
“There’s certainly nothing that new about this version of Beauty and the Beast (well, except it isn’t a cartoon anymore), but it’s a good recreation of a classic animated film that should leave most die-hards satisfied. In other words: When you imagine what a live action Beauty and the Beast movie would be like, the final product is probably a lot like what you think it would be like.”
A.O. Scott (The New York Times)
“This live-action/digital hybrid, directed by Bill Condon and starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens in the title roles, is more than a flesh-and-blood (and prosthetic fur-and-horns) revival of the 26-year-old cartoon, and more than a dutiful trip back to the pop-culture fairy-tale well. 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.”
Emily Yoshida (Vulture)
“If only Beauty and the Beast were just a collection of stills, like a fancy Annie Leibowitz spread for some glossy quarterly edition of Disney Adventures. Unfortunately, it’s over two hours long, and is padded out by a hugely unnecessary number of non–Ashman-Rice musical numbers and a pointless detour where Belle finds out what happened to her missing mother. 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)
“Yearning to be a classic, MGM-like musical with a similar soaring grandeur, Condon’s proclivities for pomposity make for overblown songs — especially in the third act — that sound noisy, strained and histrionic. Restraint and subtlety are not terms within Condon’s filmmaking vocabulary. And 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.”
Matt Goldberg (Collider)
“Unfortunately, Beauty and the Beast is the weakest of the studio’s recent live-action adaptations (I’m setting aside Maleficent and Alice in Wonderland since those are more re-imaginings than attempts to follow the plotlines of their original animated Disney movies). 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.”