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Review: Despite French stars, this ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is an overdone mess

Lea Seydoux in the movie "Beauty and the Beast."
(Shout! Factory Films)

The bloated, convoluted French-German co-production of “Beauty and the Beast” could prove the death knell for further big-screen versions of the classic fairy tale — that is, if Disney’s live-action remake of its 1991 musical animated hit wasn’t due in theaters next year.

This current adaptation, directed by Christophe Gans (“Silent Hill”), proves a tedious mishmash of styles, tones and time periods as it recounts the story of forbidden romance between the lovely Belle (Léa Seydoux) and the beastly being (Vincent Cassel) holding her captive in his cursed castle.

The film is most acceptable when it sticks to its beauty-and-beast dynamic. Even then it’s too dizzying and grandiose and the chemistry between the lead characters is pretty much nil.  

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But the script by Gans and Sandra Vo-Anh spends too much time off the castle grounds with satellite bits involving Belle’s at-odds family members — ruined merchant father (André Dussollier), nitwit sisters (Audrey Lamy, Sara Giraudeau) and dubious brothers — as well as a prince (also Cassel), a princess (Yvonne Catterfeld), and other heroes, villains and creatures that appear in dreams, fantasies, flashbacks and whatever passes for the present.

There’s fine camerawork, costuming and production design. But the CG and green-screen effects are a mixed bag and the actors often seem too beset by the overblown story and settings to find their centers.

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‘Beauty and the Beast’

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In French with English subtitles

MPAA rating: PG-13, for some fantasy violence, sensuality and partial nudity

Running time: 1 hour, 53 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica; Edwards Westpark 8 Irvine

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