Beautiful and certainly not beastly.
Disney’s new party piece of remaking our cherished animated classics into live action spectacles has always been a tantalising prospect. Their first attempt with The Jungle Book wasn’t exactly perfect, but it packed both a fresh appeal with its special effects and still touched upon our nostalgia. Before we get to the planned Mulan and Lion King, we now have Beauty and the Beast, the original being the first ever animated feature to be nominated for Best Picture. It holds a special place in many (including my own) hearts, not to mention universal critical acclaim. You can rest easy, for Disney have not let down the tale as old as time.
Belle (Emma Watson), a bookworm that sticks out in her local village, lives a peaceful life with her father (Kevin Kline). However, a chain of events leads her to an abandoned winter castle, holding a cursed beast (Dan Stevens).
Starting off with a brand new prologue, director Bill Condon introduces us to the fabled Stevens in his human form, waltzing around his lavish ballroom before meeting his timely fate. In a film full of familiarity, this is a welcome addition, adding context to the Beast, also giving us a place to start in our opinions of him. Next up, Watson enters boldly, full of charm and joy, strolling into our lives with the toe tapping beginning number you’ll be singing all day. Unlike recent incarnations of the classic story, Watson’s comparably excellent performance shines consistently, taking on challenging musical numbers while retaining the Disney innocence that still runs through the film.
The remake is definitely darker though, parents be warned. Uneasiness creeps through when Belle has to go up against a pack of wolves, bringing back memories of The Jungle Book‘s intensity. The beast himself, particularly for the kids, will likely terrify. His CGI is a little unbalanced, but one can’t deny his powerful screen presence, also commanded by a terrific turn from Dan Stevens.
The original remains unparalleled, let that be known. It’s sheer invention and beauty were never likely to be matched, but the remake doesn’t really try to be anything out of the ordinary. It instead sits as a suitable accompaniment to the 1991 classic. Egomaniac turned bully Gaston and his unwittingly loyal companion LeFou (played by Luke Evans and Josh Gad) are given scale adjustments, with Gaston being particularly more vengeful and vicious. They often steal a laugh (Gad is immensely likeable), but their boisterous personalities work towards the bigger-than-life feel the film is aiming towards, what with its extravagant special effects – the castle is hauntingly picturesque.
The two big highlights are the ballroom dance, which will make you clasp your hands and go “d’awww”, and the ‘Be Our Guest’ sequence. Watching the iconic pair dance to the updated theme is an absolute joy, likely to make Disney lovers around the world smitten. But the dinner sequence is a visual bonanza, wonderfully performed by the voice cast (particularly Ewan McGregor as fan favourite Lumière). It will take you back to when Fantasia brought us groundbreaking, screen-burstingly colourful sequences – Beauty and the Beast absolutely nails it.
There are a couple of issues. The running time is a full 45 minutes longer than the original, which wouldn’t be a problem if the pacing wasn’t a little off on occasion, for example Belle’s mindset towards the Beast shifts a bit quickly. Also the realistic take on animating the castle’s inanimate objects is a slightly creepy, but the voice cast (also including Ian McKellen as Cogsworth) make everything more fun. There’s also some stellar lines, a personal favourite being: “A broken clock is right two times a day, and this is not one of them.”
To sum it up…
Disney’s latest live action outing doesn’t try to be bolder than the original, or escape the realms of familiarity hugely – rather it hits the right notes with wonderful music and a timeless story. If you’re considering seeing the remake, please, be our guest.
Did you enjoy Beauty and the Beast? Let us know in the comments below, on the Facebook page, or tweet us!
Author: Cameron Frew