The highly anticipated live action version of one of the most loved of Disney’s animated classics is finally here. Can this starry remake hold a candle, excuse me, candelabra to its predecessor?
Belle (Emma Watson) is a book loving oddball who lives with her eccentric father in a small French village. She is happy enough, but feels like she is destined for more than the simple life offered by the village and avoiding the oafish advances of local brute Gaston. While looking for her missing father, she finds an enchanted castle, whose master is a hideous beast. Is there more to this beast that meets the eye?
The story is indeed a tale as old as time, one that has been told may different times in many different ways. There are none more memorable than when Disney’s 1991 animated version hit the screens. Given its popularity, it’s little wonder that this is the latest film to be transferred to live action. It is also the one that carries with it the most risk. Beauty and The Beast was the first animated film ever to be nominated for Best Picture at The Academy Awards and to say that it is much loved would be an understatement. It was imperative that they get this right, if they didn’t, they could see the live action adaptation gravy train come to a shuddering halt. Thankfully, they have got it right.
It is a lavish, sumptuous, visually stunning treat. They have got the casting spot on and the musical numbers are suitably rousing and while it wont replace the animated version in our hearts, it certainly will captivate a whole new generation of new ones.
The film plays more like an adaptation of a Broadway musical than anything else and while it follows the template of the animated classic it isn’t restrained by it. It is about 45 minutes longer and the new stuff hits more than it misses. There is a new prologue with Dan Steven’s Prince, who is pitched somewhere between David Bowie and The Ultimate Warrior, being cursed. it’s great fun and director Bill Condon sets out his visual stall early. Of the new songs, Evermore is a soulfully bombastic treat and, if you have a heart in your chest at least, will stay with you.
The cast are spot on, Emma Watson captures our hearts early with a great version of Belle, and Dan Stevens manages to make an impression through his CGI makeover. The chemistry between the two is right on the money. The ensemble cast are full of big names, Luke Evans’ Gaston has more of a brutal edge here and makes for a cracking villain. Josh Gad manages to shake off Olaf and gives us a scene stealing performance as Gaston’s bumbling, put upon, good hearted sidekick. A lot was made going in about his character’s sexuality, come on folks it is 2017 and this shows there is room for everyone in the magic kingdom.
The films charm and humour comes however from the wonderful array characters that make up The Beast’s staff. While the animation still has some way to come to make things totally seamless, Disney’s uncanny knack of casting the perfect voice artist for the role continues. Ewan McGregor’s Lumiere and Ian McKellen’s Cogsworth are great fun and the film soars during their exchanges, and while Emma Thompson gives it a good go she doesn’t quite fill Angela Lansbury’s teapot.
What made the original so memorable were the set pieces and musical numbers and that is certainly the case here. The Be Our Guest sequence is eye meltingly stunning, the update of Gaston! a rousing treat and the ballroom scene is as touching as it is lavish, the reveal of Waston in “the yellow dress” should mark the next step in this young lady’s career.
I mentioned that the film hits more than it misses and sadly it does miss in places. I always struggled with The Prince’s curse, it never felt to me that the punishment fitted the crime and the new prologue, while stunning, did nothing to address this. Furthermore, the beefing up of the enchantress character makes no real sense, her screen time could have been used to trying and explain her motivation rather than act as sort of distant guardian angel. I was really disappointed by how under used the brilliant Stanley Tucci was, his maestro turned harpsichord hardly features and finally the back story concerning the fate of Belle’s mother strikes a dark tone that feels a little out of place.
All in all, this is exactly what it should have been, a visually stunning, toe tapping, heart melting, soul warming fairy tale. It is sure to win a new generation fans and alienate only the staunchest of the originals devotees. While it maybe a tale as old as time, I doubt we will look back on this in 25 years and feel the same sense of love and affection we feel for it’s predecessor. For now however, sit back and enjoy the spectacle.
Thanks for reading. Hope you folks enjoyed yourselves, catch ya later on down the trail.