If Oscar-winning director Damien Chazelle is one of the many who will go to see Beauty and the Beast this weekend he’ll probably breathe a massive sigh of relief.
Despite $160 million worth of lavish Disney sparkle the live-action musical remake lacks one ingredient money can’t buy – charm – and for that, the actress who Chazelle nearly cast in La La Land, must share the blame: Emma Watson.
Now six years out of Hogwarts, Watson has grown a huge social media following and become a powerful voice for gender equality. But while her status as a talking point might be red hot, her acting talents appear to have gone into reverse; where once she was spontaneous and sweet and unaffected, now she is stiff and self-conscious and just a little bit pleased with herself.
In other words, Emma Watson is no Emma Stone who Chazelle cast in La La Land after Watson walked away, by the grace of the movie Gods, to play a Disney princess.
Result: an Oscar for Stone and over $400 million in box office for a daring original musical which owed a considerable amount of its charm to its delightful and supremely talented lead actress.
Beauty and The Beast is going to make bucketloads of cash and viewed on the surface, it’s good for Watson’s star profile after her recent duds Colonia, Regression and Noah. But unlike its 1991 animated predecessor which was the first cartoon to be nominated for Best Picture, this Beauty and the Beast won’t become a critical darling and Watson’s bookish Belle is more snoot than sweetheart.
When she sings in the opening number, “There must be more than this provincial life”, introducing us to her rural home town in 18th century France, a thought forms which proves hard to shake over the next two hours: this Belle is too big for her boots.
She looks the part – pretty as a peach – but there’s a twinkle and a spark missing. We’re being commanded to like and admire her rather than being made to feel it- and that is largely the fault of Watson; after all, the character worked a charm in the 1991 version.
It’s Watson’s most significant role since 2013’s underwhelming The Bling Ring directed by Sofia Coppola. But it’s hard not to look upon this as a missed opportunity for Watson and to anticipate that she will use the Hollywood leverage she will accrue from the commercial success of Beauty and the Beast to squander her increased stardom by highlighting more contentious causes and making more arthouse duds.
Are any of the Potter stars going to enjoy long and lucrative careers? Or, to put it more brutally, can any of them actually act?
On the evidence of the post-Potter efforts of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Watson the answer is a pretty resounding “F” for fail.
Hopes were high for the trio after they finished shooting the eighth and final Hogwarts movie- the second part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2011.
While the Harry Potter franchise was always going to be huge, it’s easy to forget the winning dynamic between Harry, Ron and Hermione that Radcliffe, Grint and Watson made it look easy to establish. In other words Watson can claim more responsibility for the success of the Harry Potter franchise than she will be able to for Beauty and the Beast.
In the meantime, no one can accuse Radcliffe of not putting the effort in. The likable star has, bless him, stripped naked on Broadway (in Equus), had gay sex (Kill Your Darlings), portrayed a flatulent corpse (Swiss Army Man) and shaved his head (Imperium) but none of the turns have ever quite convinced audiences; the effort and strain are always visible.
Radcliffe has built up an impressive global property empire and his fortune has been evaluated at just under $100 million.
But he has battled personal demons in the form of alcohol addiction and when it comes to his work, Radcliffe’s most effective post-Potter performance was in horror hit The Woman In Black directed by James Watkins.
It’s no coincidence Radcliffe was desperate to work with the filmmaker again- he was due to play Sebastian Coe in a film entitled Gold about the former Olympic champion’s rivalry with Steve Ovett to be directed by Watkins. He did months of training.
However, Watkins left the project, unconvinced by the screenplay, and Radcliffe and his representatives were furious.
Rupert Grint is, well, always Rupert Grint – perfectly cast as Ron Weasley but almost impossible to imagine in any other role. In his latest project, a TV remake of Guy Ritchie’s 2000 crime caper, Snatch, which premiered in the UK this week, he tries very hard not to be Rupert Grint, playing a dandyish criminal toff.
The reviews were savage. Guardian critic Stuart Heritage described the show as “obnoxious” and “desperate to impress.” Digital Spy wrote that Grint “does his best….but he’s playing a character so hopelessly cartoonish that his performance can’t help but end up feeling affected.”
As the Sun reported last year, his most settled role has been going on benders and watching the exploits of Tottenham Hotspur soccer club in London.
So, Radcliffe and Grint score marks for effort but D’s for delivery. Alas, on the evidence of Beauty and the Beast, not even class swot Hermione is going to drag up the grade average of the former Harry Potter stars.
Time to give them all another ‘D’ – Detention.