Movie Reviews: Beauty and the Beast and The Shack

Beauty and the Beast

Cary, NC – Beauty and the Beast continues Disney’s winning streak with remaking their animated classics in live action. Director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls) makes a sumptuous adaptation that, while slightly overlong, fondly and graciously recalls the original.

A Great Adaptation

Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorites. I was five years old when it came out, and like every other kid that age, I was transfixed. I watched it again very recently and was not at all shocked to find that not only does it still hold up, but it’s even better and more gorgeous than I remembered. The animation, the songs, the story. A true classic. Thankfully, Condon has rendered an almost shot for shot retelling of that film thanks to great attention to detail and stunning special effects.

Outstanding Cast

The true key to this adaptation is its casting. Emma Thompson, Ian McKellen, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad. All pros doing what they do best and having a blast doing it. However, it’s Luke Evans as Gaston who nearly steals the show. I haven’t been the biggest fan of Evans previously, having been fairly bland in both villainous and heroic roles in The Hobbit and Fast & Furious films. But here, Evans finds his stride and he brings the perfect bravado to Gaston. He is note perfect, a true cartoon come to life filled with charisma and comedic shops. It’s a show stopping performance and I can’t wait to see where Evans goes from here.

Of course, Beauty and the Beast doesn’t work if the beauty and the beast don’t. Emma Watson makes for the ideal Belle. Watson has come a long way from Harry Potter and it’s been a treat to see her get better and better over the years.

Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) plays the beast. Even covered in CGI, Stevens brings warmth and menace to the role. Stevens has slowly becoming one of my favorite new actors, thanks to roles in the new TV show Legion and the criminally under seen genre gem The Guest.

Separately, Watson and Stevens are great. Together, they are wonderful. Their chemistry is through the roof, and watching them getting to know one another and play off each other is a treat.

A Little Long

The one drawback to this adaptation is its length. The film runs about 40 minutes longer than the original. Some of that extra padding is worthy (we get to learn more about Belle’s mom!) and some not so much. There are a few new songs as well, which are very good but not as great as what’s already there.

Still Worth The Trip

These are all minor complaints though, as director Condon and company have greatly succeeded in bringing to life one of the most beloved animated films of all time. If you are even the smallest fan of the original, then you won’t be disappointed. Definitely worth the trip.

Also playing this weekend at the Cary Theater is 20th Century Women, at 2 and 9 PM on Thursday, March 23; 9 PM on Friday, March 24; 7 PM on Saturday, March 25; also 9:30 PM on Friday, March 31 next week.

Read our review for more details.

The Shack

We like to keep it positive here at CaryCitizen and even in reviews of bad movies, there is some good element or two we can bring out that might justify spending your money to go see it. Then there’s The Shack.

Heavy Handed and Shallow at the Same Time

The Shack, by director Stuart Hazeldine (Exam), is based on a best-selling book of the same name that built heavily on Christian themes and messages. In brief, Mack, a father of five, has one of his daughters murdered and goes into a depression spiral. Through this, he gets a message to go to a shack and is transported to a world where he talks with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, manifested as three people.

The book itself got pushback from strict Christian critics for being “heretical” and there is a borderline Gnostic interpretation in the way it portrays the Holy Trinity. But if the film actually portrayed some heretical or totally new religious ideas, it might have been more interesting. There is nothing to get worked up about in this movie.

As Mack, played by Sam Worthington (Avatar, Terminator Salvation), talks with these manifestations of the Christian god, he gets counseling and guidance on how to overcome grief and move past the murder of his daughter. It is laid on quite thick – he is talking to God and Jesus, after all – but what he is hearing is not interesting or groundbreaking writing. “Love is all around you and you need to continue on with your life.” It’s not as though grief counseling has to be brilliant writing but if it is the centerpiece of your movie, it should at least elicit something from a viewer.

Not Much There

Religious movies can be hard to critique. They are generally intended for a specific audience already attuned to the message but the best films have been able to bring in all viewers. Silence from late last year was explicitly Christian and Catholic but it had a larger message that could mean different things to different people. The Shack barely means anything to anyone.

It is interesting to see a movie about a father whose daughter is killed and it is not just a violent slog of him looking for revenge. And there are a few good performances, namely Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures, The Help) as God, though it leans hard on an out-dated trope. But it is not enough to be worth watching.

Skip It

Overall, this is a film that is trying to pull off a very complicated emotional message, falls very short and expects the viewer’s faith to do the rest of the work. Regardless of religious beliefs, anyone who enjoys a well-made movie will not enjoy The Shack.

Jordan Hunt reviews movies for CaryCitizen. Read more Movie Reviews. Photos from Facebook (Beauty and the Beast/The Shack).

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