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Dustin Putman

Beauty and the Beast  (2016)
2½ Stars
Directed by Christophe Gans.
Cast: Léa Seydoux, Vincent Cassel, Andre Dussollier, Eduardo Noriega, Myriam Charleins, Audrey Lamy, Sara Giraudeau, Jonathan Demurger, Nicolas Gob, Louka Meliava, Yvonne Catterfeld, Dejan Bucin, Wolfgang Menardi, Mickey Hardt, Arthur Doppler.
2016 – 112 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for violence, sensuality and partial nudity).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman for, February 21, 2017.
Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont's enduring 1756 fairy tale is faithfully translated to film with lavish French-language fantasy "Beauty and the Beast." Ornately designed and aesthetically opulent, this adaptation hasn't a dancing teapot or character bursting into song in sight (there are, however, a slew of dogs who have been transformed into bug-eyed, castle-dwelling gremlins). If writer-director Christophe Gans (2006's "Silent Hill") and co-writer Sandra Vo-Anh look to have been spared no expense in realizing their exquisite vision, they have missed the mark in getting to the heart of their story's romance. As gorgeous and often compelling as "Beauty and the Beast" is, it is an emotionally chilly experience that doesn't give the viewer much to genuinely care about. Léa Seydoux (2014's "The Grand Budapest Hotel") is suitably beatific as Belle and Vincent Cassel (2016's "Jason Bourne") cuts a magnetic figure in both Prince and Beast form, but as love interests there is no detectable heat or chemistry between them.

Belle (Léa Seydoux) is the youngest and loveliest offspring of her widowed father (Andre Dussollier), a once-prosperous, recently-down-on-his-luck merchant who is captured after seeking shelter at the lonely castle lair of the Beast (Vincent Cassel). When Belle learns of her father's agreement to remain the Beast's property in exchange for sparing the lives of his six children, she steals away to the Beast's kingdom, sacrificing herself for her dad's freedom. As Belle learns of the Beast's royal past and the curse which trapped him in his current hairy visage, her contentious relationship with him begins to soften. And, when the Beast's life is threatened, Belle is forced to confront her own deeper feelings for him.

"Beauty and the Beast" works better as cinematic spectacle than as compassionate romantic drama. Among all other versions of the tale, this is a few notches down from the best—Jean Cocteau's magnificent 1946 picture, as well as 1991's Oscar-winning Disney animated musical from Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale—because it simply doesn't have the same level of soul and heartfelt emotion. What it does have is sweep, and director Christophe Gans treats each image as if it was his last. Technically, the film is state-of-the-art, its cinematography, visual effects, production design and costumes matched by its majestic scope and action sequences. The warm-up between Belle and the Beast, unfortunately, is abrupt and unconvincing, seemingly arising out of obligation than as a natural development for these characters. Fortunately, their afterthought of a romance dampens but does not spoil the movie's cumulatively handsome spell.
© 2017 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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