Disney has been on fire of late with their string of successful live action remakes of their beloved animated classic films. Few other movies in their animated collection are more beloved and praised than ‘Beauty and the Beast’, which when in 1991 was one of the crown jewels in Disney’s animated renaissance that helped put Disney animation back on the map. The voice acting, animation, music and love story captured the imaginations of a whole generation and holds a special space in my heart as the first movie I was ever taken to see in cinemas. It’s no surprise that after the success of the live action/CGI remake of ‘The Jungle Book’ last year, the latest for this division of Disney films, that ‘Beauty and the Beast’ would soon follow.
Those familiar with the original animated adaptation will find the story all too familiar. Unlike ‘The Jungle Book’ which kept the same basic story but played with the sequential order of events and spun it in a few interesting new directions before arriving at the expected conclusion, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ plays this one more closely to its animated predecessor. The general plot beats; order of events and music is largely all the same, not taking as many new chances. This is not necessarily a bad thing though and anyone who has seen that film will instantly be overcome with giddy nostalgia was they see Belle singing her way down the streets of her village with her head stuck in book as Gaston attempts to woo her, or when introduced to the Beast and the cursed items/characters inside his enchanted castle. And for new viewers, the story will be all fresh and make them want to rush out to the nearest movie rentals store to experience the original in all its glory while waiting for this film on home video.
‘Beauty and the Beast’ is not a complete frame-by-frame remake however. They have taken the liberty of updating aspects of the story to better relate it to audiences of today and to fix up some lesser plot inconsistencies. Belle’s father Maurice has been altered from an inventor to an over protective widowed artist while Belle is shown as more resourceful and somewhat of an inventor herself in contrast to the other conventional women in her village. Much of the plot between Gaston and Maurice while Bella is in the Beast’s castle has been reworked to have them more engaged in the events of the story instead of biding their time in the village or in the case of Maurice, wandering around in the enchanted woods looking for Belle for undetermined and unrealistic amount of time without succumbing to the elements. There are some added scenes and back-story concerning Belle’s mother, two new songs, a little more time dedicated to the enchantress as well as subtle plot elements from other versions of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ throughout the years. Perhaps the most controversial change is the sexual orientation of Lefou, Gaston’s loyal sidekick, which created so much controversy that the film was banned in Russia. This has been blown out of proportion as this orientation is barely hinted at throughout the film and only outright shown for several seconds offhandedly at the end of the film, and most children will barely even remember or pay it attention.
The casting of the film is one of its stronger aspects. Emma Watson is a good casting choice as Bella and conveys all the nuances and aspects of her personality well. Dan Stevens does an equally good job as the Beast as do the enchanted objects played by such heavyweight acting talent as Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Stanley Tucci, among others; despite them being mostly CG animated throughout the film. The only complaint on them would be that some of the visual design choices of their character models could have been altered to allow them to be as visually expressive as their classically animated counterparts. Kevin Kline is more than capable as Maurice, although he largely doesn’t have too much to do in this film, despite some added scenes and moments with his character and Josh Gad shines as the eccentric and loyal LeFou. The highlight of this film is definitely Luke Evans playing the role of Gaston. He is clearly having a blast playing the villain and plays it up as much possible but never goes too far over the top. He will be one of the character most remembered when the film is over, as will Mrs. Potts, played by Emma Thompson. Her voice provides all the warmth and motherly care as the role demands.
Much of the classic music has been extended with extra verses and lyrics not used in the 1991 film along with two new additions, “How Does a Moment Last Forever” and “Evermore” which fit perfectly with the other pieces. Despite some songs falling ever so slightly short of the standards set by the animated film’s voice actors and singing talent, the music and songs we get are still a thing of beauty (pun intended), especially watching the cast perform them on-screen, and will come as even more of a treat to those who have not seen the earlier film or heard the music until now. The only one that disappoints is the end-credits “Beauty and the Beast” duet performed by Ariana Grande and john Legend, who don’t compliment like Céline Deon and Peabo Bryson, despite their musical talent.
While this film isn’t going to dramatically surprise anyone who knows the story, it’ll leave you walking away with childlike happiness and nostalgia. Children will no doubt love it as will audiences of all ages. I highly recommended film for anyone with any interest in seeing it. What better way to spend your Easter weekend this year than with the Disney tale as old as time and song as old as rhyme.
Reviewed on: Cinema 2D
Available on: Cinema 2D, Cinema 3D, IMAX 3D
Genre: Fantasy, Family, Musical
Age Rating: PG
Estimated RRP: R50 – 150
Release Date: 13 April 2017
- Top quality actors bring all their talent to this film.
- Music and songs will stay with you for weeks.
- Character designs of The Beast’s face and some his enchanted objects.
- Story doesn’t break new ground (very minor complaint)