Beauty and the Beast (2017)
PG / 129 mins.
Family / Fantasy / Musical
Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans
Director: Bill Condon
When the adaptation of the classic Disney animated musical Beauty and the Beast was first announced I was instantly sold. Not only was Beauty and the Beast released during Disney’s golden era of musicals, but the remake was set to star Emma Watson as Belle, the musical’s lead lady. When you add in the fact that it was being directed by Bill Condon (of Dreamgirls and Chicago fame), it did not take much more for the remake to become a must-watch for me. Now that the movie, a tale as old as time, has finally arrived, I can report that the live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast has met my expectations, delivering an experience more magical than the original.
If you have watched the original, then the remake should have you feeling right at home. Aside from a few minor changes, the remake walks in lock step with the source material. The Beast, played by Dan Stevens, is still under a curse that has trapped him in his own castle as a monstrous beast and his friends as a collection of inanimate objects. He is still in search of someone who will love him before the last petal of his rose withers away. Belle is still the young woman who, after going to search for her father, finds herself a prisoner in the Beast’s forgotten castle and soon begins to fall in love with the beast himself. The rest is history. It is still an endearing tale, only made better by the fact that Belle is not a damsel in distress this time around. By Emma Watson’s demand, Belle is a more intelligent and capable character. She is an independent and bookish woman, who will most likely act as an inspiration for a generation of young fans for years to come.
It is obvious that Emma Watson’s performance serves as the seat-filler, but the rest of the performances compliment her well. Dan Stevens plays a good Beast, who shows both a beastly side as well as a charming side in his performance. I think both him and Emma worked well together. Then there are everybody’s favorite talking objects, Lumiere and Cogsworth, played by Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellan respectively. The two acts as the comic relief throughout the entire movie and share some of the movie’s best moments. Gaston, the narcissistic and charming antagonist played by Luke Evans, also does a wonderful job with his role. He is even better than the original in that he starts off as a rather harmless goof and then quickly turns into a terrifying figure blinded by rage in the end. It is still a fun character arch to watch develop onscreen.
Emma Watson not only plays a good Belle, but it also turns out that she has a great voice as well. Her performances, especially her opening number “Belle,” show off her great musical talent. There were times where it seemed like her voice was digitally enhanced or modified, but it never felt too egregious. The rest of the songs are just as great as the original classics. Some songs have modified lyrics to fit the story while some songs are completely new. While I don’t know how I feel about the modified lyrics, they never go too overboard with it. Songs like “Beauty and the Beast” performed by Emma Thompson (who plays Mrs. Potts) and “Be Our Guest” sung by Lumiere and the rest of the castle crew feel livelier this time around and they will surely bring back some nostalgic memories.
The biggest differentiator (if it was not apparent already) is that the remake is live action. CGI is the name of the game and it is well done in this movie, for the most part. Lumiere and Cogsworth, as well as the rest of the castle objects, look amazing in CGI. They are more fluid and move around with ease. Mrs. Potts might look a bit creepy, though. (What is even creepier is her Funko Pop figure) Then there is the Beast, who looked a little too rigid. His movement did not feel natural which was especially evident in scenes like the ballroom dance. CGI aside, there are some very nice looking shots throughout the movie. It is a colorful film that is really pleasing to the eye. There was some great cinematography that brilliantly captured the picturesque beauty of the original.
While it might not be a popular opinion to most, I think that the adaption easily surmounts the original Beauty and the Beast, despite some of its technical issues regarding the Beast and some pacing issues in its story. I really enjoyed the original movie, but I do not highly regard it as some do. In my opinion, the original provides a good backbone while the adaptation takes the story and runs with it, filling it with more energy and magic. While it might not seem instantly apparent, there are going to be a new generation of kids that look at the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast and they are going to view it as the definitive version. While this might seem like a bonkers idea, it is not necessarily a terrible thing.