Disney has taken it upon themselves to give all their classic stories a face lift by making them into live-action films. The next one on the list may just be the most popular Disney story of all: Beauty and the Beast. The following review will be spoiler free.
Beauty and the Beast is directed by Bill Condon and stars Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, and Luke Evans. The film is a re-imagining of the timeless story which follows Belle (Watson) as she is taken prisoner in a castle owned by a Beast (Stevens). Despite her worries, Belle befriends the enchanted staff members of the castle and begins to learn that the Beast may not be as gruesome as he seems. All the while, the treacherous Gaston (Evans) bans the townsfolk against the Beast in order to get rid of him once and for all.
As the marketing for Beauty and the Beast began to increase, news started to break on the slate of live-action remakes of classic animated tales currently in production at Disney including Aladdin, Mulan, The Lion King, and The Little Mermaid among many, many others. Considering Disney is currently on a hot streak with three straight well received adaptations (Cinderella, The Jungle Book, and Pete’s Dragon), this news was met with much excitement from fans everywhere.
Not only does this idea make financial sense for Disney, it also has the potential to add little changes to the source material that can benefit the film’s themes to ring more resonant in today’s society. While we all love some of these properties, there’s no doubting that some of them are definitely a product of the times they were created in. I enjoyed what Disney did with Cinderella, giving the story a face lift while giving characters some added motivations. If these films are all done in such a way, we could be on the brink of something special.
As for Beauty and the Beast, was it able to conquer this aforementioned task?
While it may be a slave to the original, this new version of Beauty and the Beast is certainly an enjoyable ride.
The creative team involved with the film deserves a ton of credit for the production design of this film. Every frame oozes with color and pops with life. I would be shocked if next year that Beauty and the Beast was not nominated for production design. Each character looks perfect as the costume design captures the old French feel that the source material requires. For lack of a better word, Beauty and the Beast looks pretty magical, sucking you back into the world that we love.
However, what really gives the film its heart is the performances. As you can probably imagine, Emma Watson is absolutely elegant as Belle, showing that she has the singing voice to pair with her heartwarming acting abilities. Her interactions with Dan Stevens’ Beast feel very genuine and thoughtful, recapturing the love story that is endeared by many. Despite being in motion capture for most of the movie, Dan Stevens adds a lot of charm to the Beast character, adding a new wrinkle to the character that wasn’t very present in the original animated movie. Although the look of Beast succumbs to the uncanny valley effect with less than top notch CGI at times, Stevens makes up for it with plenty of charisma.
However, the character that steals the show is Gaston played by Luke Evans. If there was ever someone that born to play a certain role, we have certainly found it in this case. Evans flawlessly captures the oaf-like nature of the popular character, exuding the panache and brashness necessary for this seemingly larger than life character. He and Lefou (Josh Gad) play very well off each other throughout the film. The best part of the film may be their famous song which translated very well to live-action.
Beauty and the Beast is not without its faults, however. The central relationship of the story between Belle and the Beast feels quite rushed at a certain point in the film. One second the two are enemies and then all of a sudden they appear to have feelings for each other. Although it montages through the same progression in the animated classic, it does not translate as well to live-action as the passage of time feels limited to say the least.
The film also starts off a little bumpy with terribly on the nose dialogue. This is another instance where the film attempted to use the exact same dialogue as the animated feature. However, these moments could have used a little more subtext as the blunt discussion of marriage and children felt a tad awkward with actual people spouting the lines.
That being said, Beauty and the Beast has some nice little changes to the iconic story, making it a little more than just a straight reboot of the original. The film adds some new songs that worked naturally with the story, allowing for some new heart to be added. Beauty and the Beast also adds in a little extra backstory by exploring what happened to Belle’s mother which was never mentioned in the animated film. Little moments like these added nice touches to the film, making it feel like its own product. But the main change that has most people buzzing is the announcement that Lefou is a gay character. For those concerned about this idea, it plays very naturally into the story while also making sense of the nature of Lefou and his interactions with Gaston.
As a whole, Beauty and the Beast is a lovely, heartwarming update of a classic that continues the Disney live-action hot streak. It gets an A-. Make sure to buy your ticket in advance as this movie will certainly break the bank at the box office.
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