BEAUTY AND THE BEAST:
HAS NOTHING ON THE 1991 ORIGINAL, BUT THE ELEGANCE AND MAGIC OF ITS STORY SHINE THROUGH!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: *** out of 4
Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme, Beauty and the Beast
After the major success of last year’s Jungle Book and 2015’s Cinderella, Disney has now given us a live-action re-imagining of one of the most beloved stories of all time, Beauty and the Beast. Like many, I wasn’t entirely onboard for a remake of the 1991 animated film, not because it sounded bad or anything like that, but nothing could top the original classic.
Disney’s animated Beauty and the Beast is a timeless classic, no matter what age or gender you are, admit it, you were under the magical spell of that film. It was a huge hit in 1991 following the success of The Little Mermaid in 1989, helped kick off the Disney Renaissance with Aladdin the following year and especially The Lion King in 1994, and became the first animated feature to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
How do you top that with live-action? You don’t, but you do get a solid retelling of the story on its own. That’s where the new Beauty and the Beast film comes in, directed by Bill Condon (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn: Parts 1 and 2, The Fifth Estate, Mr. Holmes) and starring cinema sweetheart, Emma Watson (Harry Potter franchise, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Noah) as Belle.
Despite being played by the numbers from the original for the most part, the movie is absolutely gorgeous to watch from a visual perspective, lots of gold and sparkle everywhere (Debatably more golden than Belle’s dress in the movie), and very reminiscent to the production design from Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella. I saw the film in IMAX 3D and every scene in the Beast’s castle feels huge and you almost forget you’re in a movie theater, you can tell this is a film that’s made for IMAX.
Once upon a time, there was a young prince who was spoiled and cruel to everyone, with absolutely no love in his heart. One day a sorceress curses the prince and transforms him into a vicious beast and gives him a magic rose that, if he does not find true love before the last pedal falls, will turn him into a beast forever.
That’s where our heroine comes in, a French village girl and bookworm named Belle (Watson) who is tired of her life in the village and searches for something more. The other villagers question her fascination for books and is constantly stalked by the narcissistic but hunky town hero, Gaston (Luke Evans-Clash of the Titans, The Hobbit trilogy, Fast & Furious 6) who is determined to marry her, with the aid of his dim-witted lackey, LeFou (Josh Gad-Ice Age: Continental Drift, Frozen, The Angry Birds Movie).
Suddenly Belle’s father, Maurice (Kevin Kline-A Fish Called Wanda, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Ricki and the Flash) has been captured and taken prisoner one night by the Beast (Dan Stevens-Downton Abbey, The Guest, A Walk Among the Tombstones) and comes to his rescue.
Belle urges the Beast to let her father go and she’ll take his place, the Beast accepts and Belle spends the rest of her days in his castle. In time the two of them get along and eventually fall in love with each other, quite possibly their love will be strong enough to break the spell.
The film also stars Ewan McGregor (Star Wars: Episodes I-III, Big Fish, Robots) as the voice of Lumiére, Stanley Tucci (Julie & Julia, Captain America: The First Avenger, Transformers: Age of Extinction) as the voice of Maestro Cadenza, Ian McKellen (X-Men franchise, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit trilogy) as Cogsworth, Emma Thompson (Nanny McPhee, Brave, Saving Mr. Banks) as the voice of Mrs. Potts, Audra McDonald (Seven Servants, Rampart, Ricki and the Flash) as Madame de Garderobe, Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Larry Crowne, Belle, Miss Sloane) as Plumette, newcomer, Nathan Mack as the voice of Chip, Adrian Schiller (The Hour We Knew Nothing Of Each Other, The Danish Girl, Suffragette) as Monsieur D’Arque, Hattie Morahan (The Bank Job, Mr. Holmes, Alice Through the Looking Glass) as Agathe, Gerard Horan (Much Ado About Nothing, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Doctor Who) as Monsieur Jean Potts, and Henry Garrett (Atlantis, Zero Dark Thirty, Poldark) as The King.
Overall, Beauty and the Beast is a well-made re-imagining of the animated classic, even if the story itself is by the numbers and doesn’t do much to differentiate itself from the 1991 movie. The visuals, production design, and performances for the most part are more than worth the price of admission.
Emma Watson’s no Paige O’Hara but her portrayal of Belle is solid, she’s definitely beautiful and won me over many times as an actress (Not just the Harry Potter films). Granted her singing voice is very hit or miss, it shows that Watson knows the story well, and she and the Beast have decent chemistry together.
Dan Stevens portrays the Beast decently, though he’s not as intimidating as the animated Beast, he plays the part fine and the design of the Beast is pretty cool, even if it’s obviously CG’d. I would have been more impressed if the Beast was made through makeup, because you would actually have a Beast in front of the camera.
Luke Evans is a lot of fun as Gaston, he’s charming, very funny, and when necessary threatening, I don’t think he’s as enjoyable as Gaston from the animated film but that seems unfair. Josh Gad gets some funny lines once in a while as LeFou, even if his performance feels like a dim-witted rehash of Olaf from Frozen.
Song wise, not much to say, it’s the exact same songs from the animated movie, literally right down to having Alan Menken compose the film’s score. Be Our Guest, Something There, and of course Beauty and the Beast, all the iconic songs are present here so I doubt no rage here.
If you enjoyed the 2015 Cinderella or last year’s Jungle Book, you should be satisfied with Disney’s new Beauty and the Beast film. Don’t expect it to top the original, but you can expect a magical experience.