BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
Directed by: – Bill Condon
Produced by: – David Hoberman & Todd Lieberman
Starring: – Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Aura McDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Ian Mckellen, Emma Thompson
Runtime: – 129 minutes ( 2hrs 9mins)
Be Our Guest
Disney live-action remakes of their classic animated features are coming in faster than money goes into my Bank account. We have already seen Cinderella, Maleficent, Pete’s Dragon and last years Jungle Book and more like The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Lion King (one I don’t agree with) are already in development. One of the most hyped ones has definitely been the remake of the 1991 Oscar winning animated classic Beauty and the Beast.
Based on the animated feature of the same name and the classic French fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast follows a self-absorbed prince (Dan Stevens) who spends most of his days in his beautiful castle in France hosting parties and balls for the countries most beautiful people. After an old beggar woman interrupts a debutante ball during a winter storm and pleads for shelter in his castle, the prince turns her away due to her looks. Unbeknownst to the cruel and selfish prince, the beggar was actually a beautiful enchantress who decides to punish him for his arrogance. She transforms the prince into a hideous beast and his servants into inanimate objects, and erases all memory of the castle from the local townsfolk. She leaves the beast with a magic mirror and rose telling him that in order to break the spell he must earn the love of another and earn her love in return before the final petal of the rose falls or he and his servants will remain in their altered forms forever.
Years pass and the story moves to Villeneuve, A small village not too far away, where an old and kind music box maker named Maurice (Kevin Kline) lives with his daughter Belle (Emma Watson): a forward thinking and independent young-woman who spends her time reading books. Her different and progressive way of thinking rubs the more traditional thinking members of the village the wrong way and gets the attention of the village’s popular war hero and meat head Gaston (Luke Evans) who frolics around the town with his comrade LeFou (Josh Gad).
When Maurice, during one of his routine delivery trips inadvertently stumbles upon the prince’s castle, he winds up being taken prisoner for the Beast for eating his food and taking a rose in his garden. Belle comes to find him and forces the Beast to make her his prisoner instead to save her Father. Despite the Beast’s initial hostility towards Belle, he begins to warm up to her and show off his warmer and kinder side, which leads Belle (with encouragement from the castle staff) to realize that there is more to the Beast than meets the eyes. Whilst all this is going on Maurice returns to the village and enlists the help of Gaston who agrees to help -unaware of the fact that his reason is not honourable and is using it as an opportunity to finally wins Belle’s heart.
With a cast that features the likes of Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Ewan McGregor, Sir Ian Mckellen and Emma Thompson under the direction of Bill Condon an experienced screen writer and director whose credits include the critically acclaimed Dreamgirls and Chicago and the not so impressive Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 & 2; Does this Disney’s remake make a strong case to be watched or should we just honestly pop in a copy of the Animated feature ?
- From a directorial view, Bill Condon does a stellar job bringing this animated world to real life. He smoothly blends the real locations with fancy digital locales and uses his expertise in musical movies to stage the film’s iconic numbers like “ Belle”, “Be Our Guest”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “Gaston” and many other songs you remember from the original in a clever way that feel organic even though they are not energetic as the original. On the topic of musical numbers they still sound as good as you remember thanks to a strong cast that is very experienced in the realm of musicals.
- While this movie is almost exactly the same as its cartoon counter-part, the movie makes some interesting additions to make it stand out a bit. Certain elements of the original adaptation like Belle and Beast origins were in a sense painted with a broad stroke and were never really explored. The remake delves deeper into its world to explain this, and doing so creates fascinating parallels between the pair that makes their chemistry even more genuine. It even manages to add new songs like “Evermore”, “Days in the Sun” and “How Does A Moment Last Forever” to proceedings to further flesh out the plot.
- Emma Watson and Dan Stevens deliver as Belle and the Beast for the most part. While it most be noted that they aren’t as impressive in the vocal department compared to the experienced stage actors who form up a good chunk of the supporting cast, their acting ability more than makes up for the niggle thanks to the fact that they successfully distinguished themselves from their animated counterparts. I personally feel that Watson added more depth to Belle adds a level of heroism to the character I feel was a bit lacking in the original. Dan Steven impresses with an endearing motion capture performance that makes the Beast a likeable character. The movie also succeeds on that front because of the subtle changes it decided to make to the character
- In my honest opinion the scene-stealers went to the supporting cast that was full of Broadway performers. Luke Evans had a difficult task of matching the original Gaston’s over-exaggerated and super macho Gaston who I see as a cheeky parody of the archetype Disney Prince. Despite the odds he manages to make what was essentially a one-dimensional villain a more rounded character. Thanks to his performance and Condon’s alterations, the movie successfully adds depth to the character as it explain his desire to marry Belle, which comes from a similar contempt of the village life and the rejection repeatedly hits him and pushes him to more emotionally charged decisions which make his character a lot darker than before. Josh Gad who many will remember from as Frozen’s Olaf is now gifted with the role of Gaston’s right hand man Le Fou who sucks up to him to gain the upper hand. Like Gaston, he gets a little more character in this version and his contributions to the plot are more significant. The character’s sexuality has even garnered controversy, which in the grand scheme of things is a little neat addition, not an intrusive one to plot progression as it was subtle .
- The enchanted servants who roam the Beast’s castle are also noteworthy not because of their designs but the stars who are voicing and them. We have the likes of Kevin Line as Maurice , Ewan Mcgregor as Lumiere , Emma Thompson as Mrs.Potts and Audra McDonald as Madame de Garderobe. We also have the legendary Ian Mckellen as Cogsworth, Stanley Tucci as Cadenza and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Plumette who are relegated to speaking roles. They are entertaining and very engaging with their respective roles but they don’t stand out like their 2D brethren.
- A big problem with this movie is that is always going to be compared to its animated counterpart and in my honest opinion there are some elements that this re-make doesn’t successfully capture. The enchanted servants who become household equipment are photorealistic and if you have watched the original you will have to go through an adjustment period. They have lost the ability to be very expressive in their actions thanks to the limitations of the film’s format and their designs as a result are nowhere near as memorable which is jarring.
- While I prefer the more composed personality of the new Beast, I can’t really say the same for the design. It doesn’t really look that good or cool in comparison to the animated version of the same character and like the enchanted servants the creature is not as visually striking as his original. And whilst we are talking about characters and their looks I think this issues also expands to the characters who are not digitally captured as they can’t be as expressive or exaggerated as their animated predecessors which means the characters are not as memorable.
- The new songs the movie adds to the film whilst being important for plot progression are not particularly memorable ones and you’ll be hard-pressed to remember their names.
Beauty and the Beast is a fantastic remake that is extremely faithful to the original feature whilst adding layers of depth we didn’t even realize it needed. Despite it’s many improvements on the original, it still fall short in certain areas that come as a result of the limitations of the live action format. At the end of the day it’s still a movie you should watch and adore.
RATING: – WORTH A WATCH