Beauty and the Beast

March 17, 2017 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans
Directed by: Bill Condon (“Dreamgirls”)
Written by: Stephen Chbosky (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”) and Evan Spiliotopoulous (“The Huntsman: Winter’s War”)

As impressive a pair of live-action adaptations Disney was able to churn out in the last two years with 2015’s “Cinderella” and 2016’s “The Jungle Book,” it would’ve seemed like the studio figured out a surefire way to take a beloved classic film and enliven it for audiences who never owned a copy of the original on VHS. In “Beauty and the Beast,” however, director Bill Condon (“Dreamgirls”) doesn’t seem very interested in producing a fresh take of the 1991 animated movie. In fact, in this re-imagining starring Emma Watson (“Harry Potter” franchise), it looks as if the most important thing to do was adhere to the film’s “tale as old as time” adage and commitment to nostalgia. If anything, “Beauty and the Beast” is too faithful.

There are a few liberties screenwriters Stephen Chbosky (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”) and Evan Spiliotopoulous (“The Huntsman: Winter’s War”) take in the narrative that don’t add much to the overall emotion of the story. The backstory of the Beast (Dan Stevens) get more screen time as we learn the fate of his mother before he is turned into a hideous castle-dwelling monster. Identity politics also come into play as this version of “B&B” introduces us to Disney’s fist gay character, LeFou (Josh Gad), who in the original Disney movie was Gaston’s buffoonish punching bag. In this one, he’s a lively flirt.

Waston is serviceable as the intelligent and innocent Belle, but her interaction with the Beast in the first half of the movie leaves much to be desired. Their relationship lacks because the Beast is missing all of the charm and charisma of his animated predecessor. Becoming computer generated has done no favors for the Beast and we’re left with a hollow shell of a character that used to feel genuine, emotionally complex and enchanting.

While the art direction is nearly flawless albeit a bit overly gaudy at times, scenes like the dance in the ballroom or the “Be Our Guest” performance don’t visually pop like they once did. And when it comes to the new music, none of the songs from “How Does a Moment Last Forever” to the quite lullaby-like melody “Days in the Sun” are not memorable.

Wonderful set pieces, costumes, and childhood memories aside, “Beauty and the Beast” is fairly unexceptional. If French author Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s traditional fairy tale has never crossed your radar before, it’s probably best to start with the one that came during Disney’s Renaissance period. It is, by far, the more romantic and entertaining of the two.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

October 5, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller
Directed by: Stephen Chbosky (debut)
Written by: Stephen Chbosky (“Rent”)

As the music swelled and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” cut to black, I felt a twinge of regret that the teenage version of myself didn’t have this film (or the book it was adapted from, for that matter) to both obsess over and hold up as a parallel to my high school life, accurate or not. What self-diagnosed misunderstood teenage male can’t identify with being an outsider or suffering through the ultimate tragedy that is unrequited love?

While I venture on into my 30s, though, these things become embarrassing relics from a life gone by. What is it about high school that activates the mopey, me-against-the-world response in some people? Life wasn’t that bad, you know? As such, if you’re a pre-Millennial, “Wallflower” may make you wonder why you were such an insufferable teenage ass.

Written and directed by the book’s author Stephen Chbosky, “Wallflower” begins with Charlie’s (Logan Lerman) first day of high school. An undercurrent of tragedy and awkwardness follow Charlie as he ventures into the maw of early-’90s teenage culture, where no one has a cell phone and the preferred method of expressing your deepest feelings for someone was via mix tape. Friendless and skittish, Charlie takes a chance and latches on to gay class clown Patrick (Ezra Miller) and his beautiful, music-savvy step-sister Sam (Emma Watson). Charlie finds happiness in both friends and in school, thanks to the attention of English teacher Mr. Anderson (Paul Rudd) fostering Charlie’s love of reading with a steady diet of angst-filled teenage literature like “Catcher in the Rye” and “A Separate Peace.” And all the while Charlie finds himself falling in love with the unavailable Sam.

While the modern teenage experience may remains timeless, the details add a timeliness that might trip up the casual viewer. The gentle suggestion of the time period, the early-’90s, both helps and hurts the world of the film. The production design mostly avoids obvious fashion choices, sparing the audience from reliving the wardrobe styles of “Saved by the Bell,” but the pre-smartphone lifestyle may be difficult for today’s teens to grasp. After all, one of the plot points involve the main characters not being able to figure out what the name of the song was they heard on the radio once. Nevermind that’s it’s obviously David Bowie’s “Heroes.” Even this grizzled 33-year-old can can just barely remember when that was a real world problem–which is a recurring theme, as it were.

In the end, though, “Wallflower” has the vibe of a sad rock song: maybe all the details don’t line up exactly with your life, but when one or two do, damn…it feels like it’s speaking only to you.