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Dustin Putman

Beauty and the Beast  (2016)

Reviewed for by Dustin Putman

The Film
2.5 Stars
(Release Date: 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.

Read Dustin's Theatrical Review

Blu-ray Picture/Sound

Shout! Factory brings "Beauty and the Beast" to Blu-ray with a lush, frequently dazzling 1080p transfer that does complete justice to the grandeur of its special effects wizardry and detailed period costuming. The often dark but never dim visuals are resplendently brought to life here with all the clarity and specificity of top-notch HD rendering. From the snowy forests to the Beast's gothic, looming castle, locations hold a lively depth and authenticity even when they are the result of computer-generated technology. Likewise, facial features and single strands of hair can be clearly deciphered. On the aural front, French-language and English-dubbed 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and 2.0 tracks are offered, but the only ways to go are the original French soundtracks. Still, it is nice to have so many different options. The French 5.1 track rousingly fill the soundstage with action, music and even dialogue sneaking into the back channels to create an immersive experience.

Blu-ray Features
  • Interview with Director Christophe Gans (19:32, HD)
  • Interview with Vincent Cassel (14:53, HD)
  • Interview with Léa Seydoux (9:02, HD)
  • Theatrical Trailer (1:54, HD)
Bottom Line
Shout! Factory's "Beauty and the Beast" is notable for its faithfulness to the original fairy tale (it is much closer to the source material than the Disney versions), but for as lovely as it is to gaze upon, it lacks the warmth and sincerity of truly successful love stories. Still, there is much here to admire, and Léa Seydoux and Vincent Cassel are quite good individually as Belle and the Beast even if they share little chemistry as a couple. This Blu-ray release is the way to see the film. It is an absolutely gorgeous motion picture, and this high-def transfer is as good as it could possibly look short of a 4K UHD release. Recommended.

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© 2017 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman

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