Tag Archives: Emma Thompson

“Beauty and the Beast”

LOUISA: 3 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

I understand that it’s next to impossible to avoid letting your nostalgia for the original 1991 animated Disney film “Beauty and the Beast” fool you into thinking this live action remake is fantastic. I get it. It is arguably one of the greatest animated films of all time with iconic characters, scenes and songs. So iconic, in fact, that I wish the Disney machine would’ve just left it well enough alone. This nearly shot-by-shot retelling may have its moments, but they are few and far between. The film amounts to little more than a mediocre cash grab that putters along, fueled by the good will from its audience.

The film is surprisingly poorly directed by Bill Condon. The big CGI animated scenes that should be true show stoppers (like the classic “Be Our Guest” dinner performance) are choppily edited and packed with so much visual noise that they are ugly and at times ungainly. The entire project reeks of desperation as everything in the movie looks and feels overdressed and hollow, from the choreography to the mediocre costumes. The animated Beast (Dan Stevens) looks fake and terrible in the way he talks and moves, and don’t get me started on the ghastly singing all around.

The cast is so perfect (I’ve been excited for months after the accomplished list of actors was announced) and I can’t believe they actually blew it. Something feels completely “off” about many of the performances here, especially from Kevin Kline (Maurice), Josh Gad (Lefou), and at times, Emma Watson (Belle). They look uncomfortable and confused, awkwardly delivering lines and sometimes even changing acting styles throughout the film. Watson and Stevens lack even an ounce of chemistry, which sorely hurts the entire project.

There’s the typical overacting from voice talent Emma Thompson (Mrs. Potts) and Stanley Tucci (Maestro Cadenza), and a really bad vocal turn from Ewan McGregor as everyone’s favorite candelabra, Lumiere. It’s not all rotten, thanks to Ian McKellen as Cogsworth the clock (he turns in an inspired voice performance) and a very funny, boisterous, and cartoonish Luke Evans who gives Gaston his due.

The film exhibits such loyalty to the source material that it often reeks of desperation in its blind insistence to mimic the original. Scenes are set up shot-by-shot and reenacted, and the love story now feels a bit dated for today’s sensibilities. With the new Disney trend of writing tough, I-don’t-need-a-man strong female characters (“Frozen,” “Moana“), this movie feels like someone is rewinding the time clock back to the early 90s, regressing to what now feels like an old-timey attitude towards men (those filthy beasts!) and women (if I stay long enough, maybe I’ll learn to love him!).

The runtime is over two hours and there is just far too much going on in this overstuffed, bloated, and disappointing film. It may remain true to the source material, but that alone doesn’t make it a good movie.

“Bridget Jones’s Baby”

LOUISA: 3.5 STARS MATT: 3 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

I was skeptical about reviewing “Bridget Jones’s Baby” because it seemed like it would be another obnoxious R-rated ode to mommyhood like the lazy “Bad Moms,” an unwelcome sequel that, twelve years later, would run the characters into the ground and stomp on all that was good about the series. Everything about this movie sounded simply awful (guess I’m not alone in this perception because there was nobody else in the theater). I’m happy to report that the movie is not only good but it stays loyal and true to the characters that we all love.

In this third installment, Bridget (Renée Zellweger) finds herself celebrating her 43rd birthday alone and refers to herself as a “spinster.” She’s surrounded at work by thirtysomethings and her dear friends are too busy to hang out because they have all become parents. When surprised with a trip to a music festival by younger friend Miranda (Sarah Solemani), Bridget meets handsome and chivalrous stranger Jack (Patrick Dempsey) and has a one night stand. A few days later, she runs into her lovably uptight ex Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) and the two have “similar relations.” Soon Bridget has a big surprise on her hands — she’s pregnant — and she has no idea which man is the father.

There’s quite a bit of funny material and I laughed out loud (and for extended periods of time) more than I can count. This isn’t mom-centric humor either, it’s something everyone can enjoy. There’s barely any sappiness in the story (which I appreciated). Instead of going the dreaded ‘wow aren’t babies a miracle‘ route, the film focuses on Bridget still living and loving life while going back and forth on which fella she wants to be the daddy. Not everything is as funny as it attempts to be, but there are two particularly amusing supporting performances from Gemma Jones as Bridget’s slightly clueless mom and Emma Thompson (who knew she had such impeccable comic timing?) as an OBGYN.

Mixed in with the laughs is a truly charming and wildly romantic story. Jim Broadbent has only a few minor scenes as Bridget’s dad but they are authentic and genuinely touching. The three leads have tremendous chemistry, with Firth and Dempsey particularly playing well off each other as romantic rivals with contrasting personalities. Each guy has his own flaws as well as strengths, and there’s no doubt you’ll be rooting for one man over the other (of course I’m on Team Darcy). And not to worry, in the end the film does answer the big question.

Seeing Bridget again after all these years feels like running into an old friend, and much like its titular character, the film is good-natured, slightly clumsy, and simply delightful. Welcome back, Bridget.

MATT SAYS:

Bridget (Renee Zellweger), Mark Darcy (Colin Firth), Mum (Gemma Jones), Dad (Jim Broadbent) and Bridget’s friends are all back twelve years later for “Bridget Jones’s Baby.”

Bridget is a successful television news producer in her early forties who is (to her frustration) still single. Her friend Miranda (Sarah Solemani) urges Bridget to join her on a quick getaway where she hooks up with bachelor Jack (Patrick Dempsey). Soon thereafter, she gets back together for a night with her former flame Mark. Much to her surprise, she becomes pregnant but learns that either of the two men could be the father. Both vying for Bridget’s affections, Mark and Jack become ultra-competitive with one another as they work to remain involved in her pregnancy.

While not as charming as the first movie in this series, “Bridget Jones’s Baby” at least feels authentic and true to the character — unlike the tonally odd and slightly unpleasant sequel “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.” Consequently, it works well as a fairly standard love triangle rom-com featuring characters that you remember fondly. It’s pretty funny, too, at least during the first act. While the plot weighs down the second and third acts, it remains just pleasant, light, and truthful enough to be entertaining. While it can, at times, feel a little too referential to the first film — not only with dialogue but with some out-and-out flashback sequences — it never feels desperate. This is its own story, and it’s a fairly enjoyable one at that.

Thirty- and forty-something fans of the character and the first film will probably enjoy this one, too. I liked it well enough to mildly recommend.

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