“Beauty and the Beast”: Early Review Roundup

Last night, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast premiered in Hollywood while some other press got to screen the film at the Disney’s Studios in Burbank. Following the shows, critics took to social media to share their reactions, which were mostly positive. However, the embargo on full reviews has just been lifted and the results are more mixed. Below are a few excerpts from some of the film’s first reviews:

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast

Variety seemed to enjoy the film — calling Emma Watson a “pitch-perfect Belle” — but couldn’t help compare it to the original (like many surely will):

I keep comparing “Beauty and the Beast” to the animated version, which raises a question: Is that what we’re supposed to be doing? Or should the film simply stand on its own? The movie wants to have it both ways, but then, that’s the contradictory metaphysic of reboot culture: We’re drawn in to see the old thing…but we want it to be new. The live-action “Beauty and the Beast” is different enough, and certainly, if you’ve never experienced the cartoon, it’s strong enough to stand on its own.

Similarly, Uproxx reports that the new film should meet fan expectations:

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.

Nerdist‘s review was full of backhanded compliments, calling the film “often cute, sometimes slow” in their 3 out of 5 review:

Yes, the movie is often dull, but it is dull for a reason I find remarkable: it feels completely estranged from the harrowing world of today. Part of this can be thanked to its uncanny faithfulness to the 1988 [sic] original, whose visage can’t help but be noted during any number of episodes of familiar scene blocking or mimicked line readings. Whereas other subjects of Disney’s live action reboot frenzy have employed efforts toward modernization, Beauty and the Beast opts not to reinvent, but only to revive.

Unfortunately, Vulture was straight-up not impressed, titling their review “The New Beauty and the Beast Is a Lifeless Re-creation of the Original”:

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… 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.

In The Guardian‘s three-star (of five) review of the film also sings Watson’s praises:

Emma Watson is a demure, doll-like Belle, almost a figure who has stepped off the top of a music box; she never gives in to extravagant emotion, or retreats into depression, but maintains a kind of even-tempered dignified romantic solitude. She doesn’t set the screen ablaze, but that isn’t quite the point: she is well cast and it is a good performance from her.

Slashfilms round-up also has a lukewarm feeling, even pointing out that one classic scene falls far short of the original:

If all you want is a chance to see some of the iconic Beauty and the Beast moments redone in live action, this film will scratch that itch. (Just try not to expect too much from that ballroom dance centerpiece, which is a big fat nothing here.) But if you’ve come here in search of something fresh — something more akin to Disney’s live-action Cinderella, which made that ancient tale feel vital again — you may come away slightly disappointed.

Meanwhile, The Hollywood Reporter pens a colorful review that alleges the viewing experience may surpass the actual quality of the film:

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.

Entertainment Weekly gives the film a B-, ultimately concluding that movie comes up a little short in the magic department:

Alan Menken and Howard Ashman’s musical numbers are peppered throughout along with some new ones by Menken and Tim Rice. Like so much about Condon’s film, the new songs are perfectly fine, but they’re just not transporting. More than movies or theme parks, Disney has always been in the business of selling magic. I wish there was just a little bit more of it in this Beauty and the Beast.

According to The Wrap, “Dan Stevens Stands Out in Overstuffed Remake”:

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.

Cinemablend adds to the growing consensus that the film doesn’t compare well the 1991 classic:

When Beauty and the Beast hits its rhythms, it really soars. However, when Beauty and the Beast missteps, the weight of the expectations created by the movie’s spectacular predecessors can be felt.

Empire Online is a little more positive on the film, giving it four stars and saying:

With smart reworkings of some plot strands and a clutch of new songs, it’s 45 minutes longer than its predecessor. The triumph is that that extra runtime flies by. An unabashed musical with its heart on its sleeve and energy to spare, it’s decidedly unbeastly.

But, once again, Collider, which gives the film a ‘C,’ echoes some of the other criticisms about how this adaptation compares to the animated version:

Bill Condon didn’t have to stay slavishly devoted to the 1991 film, but most of alterations and changes don’t make his version feel fresh. They feel like they’re grasping for relevancy.

But, hold on a second, because USA Today declares this version is “even better than the original”:

Unlike last year’s The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast marries visual spectacle and sumptuous design work with a better story than its original, casting a spell on old fans and newcomers alike.

Finally, in an overall positive review, The New York Times says the movie “Revels in Joy and Enchantment”:

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.

For the record, Beauty and the Beast currently holds a 71% on Rotten Tomatoes (it was at 50% earlier today), although it is still very early — the film opens in theatres March 17th.