Released: March 2017
Director: Bill Condon
Run Time: 129 Minutes
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios
Emma Watson: Belle
Dan Stevens: The Beast
Luke Evans: Gaston
Josh Gad: Le Fou
Kevin Kline: Maurice
Ewan McGregor: Lumier
Ian McKellan: Cogsworth
Emma Thompson: Mrs. Potts
Stanley Tucci: Maestro Cadenza
Of all the Disney movies that have been released over the past century, there have been few films that have really had as much of an impact on animation the way Beauty and the Beast did. It had everything in it: Amazing animation, great music, phenomenal voice-work, and a grand story to match. It was also one of the first Disney movies to utilize Pixar for some of the animation. I hold the original animated film in very high regard. It’s also the closest to perfection as any movie could ever get. With all the hubbub about Disney doing live-action remakes of some of their movies like The Jungle Book, I was very surprised that they would even go near Beauty and the Beast. But, ahead they went it and made the film. So, is it the disaster that a bunch of nay-sayers were saying? Let’s have a look.
Anyone who has seen the animated film will know how this opens: A young prince is visited by an old woman bearing a rose. Rejecting her utterly, the prince is transformed into a monstrous beast and his castle cursed. The only way to lift the curse is if the Beast learns to love another. Several later years later, young Belle is on her way to return a book that she finished the night before. After getting another book, she encounters the town hunter and chief masculine figure, Gaston. Later, her father Maurice is on his way to the market when he gets lost. Ending up at a mysterious castle, Maurice is imprisoned by the Beast. When the horse returns without her father, Belle sets out in search of her father. Exchanging her own freedom for her father’s, the Beast takes her captive. Over time, the relationship between the two warms and there seems to be a real chance that the curse could be lifted. The story is as classic as it gets. Aside from a few changes here and there, regarding the pasts of both the Beast and Belle, it’s essentially the same as the animated film. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. People were afraid that they were going to make the film different from the original, and thankfully, it’s extremely faithful.
There’s been a lot of controversy over the casting of Emma Watson as Belle. I think she was just fine. Emma’s a beautiful woman and she is good as Belle. Kevin Kline as Maurice was very surprising choice. I was very surprised at how compelling the character was. Luke Evans just NAILED it as Gaston. Honestly, he almost steals the show. He’s got the look and the swagger to portray such an arrogant character. He’s a bit more menacing in this film, though. What he does to Maurice is somewhat shocking, but not entirely surprising. This is a guy that wants Belle for himself, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to win her. I generally find Josh Gad to be irritating in most cases, but as Le Fou, he’s surprisingly good. Ewan McGregor is Lumier with Ian McKellen as Cogsworth and those two just light up the screen. But the real find of the movie is Dan Stevens as the Beast. Initially, the character is terrifying, but over time we get to learn more about him and we get to see him thaw out, so to speak. His performance is absolutely phenomenal. The acting is really good across the board. I’m impressed.
Visually, Beauty and the Beast is absolutely astounding. From the castle to the village, it is a feast for the eyes. The castle is suitably creepy at times and incredibly beautiful at others. The set designs are astonishing and the costumes are fantastic. The CGI animation is also top-notch. From Lumier to the Beast, it’s clearly fantastic but it also really draws you into the film. Everything is easy to see and the shots are fluid. It’s one of the most well-shot movies I’ve seen in a long time.
The one thing that could have broken this movie entirely would have been the music. Thankfully, it’s all really good. A lot of the songs, including Belle, Gaston, and Beauty and the Beast are all pulled from the animated film, and they are mostly done beautifully. Music has always been important in traditional Disney movies, and this is no different. They often help tell the story and give us more insight to the characters. Most of the actors in the film do their own singing, this much is clear. We know it’s Emma Thompson singing, because she has a background in this sort of thing. Luke Evans and Josh Gad really knock it out of the park with Gaston. Emma Thompson’s version of the title song is just as beautiful as Angela Lansbury’s from the animated film. Even Ariana Grande’s rendition of the song on the end credits is really good. Ewan McGregor is also fantastic when he belts out Be Our Guest. He’s no Jerry Orbach, but he’s still really good. There are a couple of new songs added into the mix, and they’re mostly good and well-integrated into the story. There’s a couple of issues though. One is Evermore, which Dan Stevens sings after letting Belle leave. It’s an absolutely beautiful song, but it’s completely unnecessary. In the animated film, we saw the pained look on the Beast’s face when he let her leave and that’s all we needed. Also, there appears to be some auto-tuning when it comes to Emma Watson. Now, I understand there is ADR involved with movies like this, but it honestly doesn’t sound like Emma at all when she’s singing Belle. It’s not bad, but it doesn’t really sound like her.
Overall, though, Beauty and the Beast is a great movie. I really loved it. Personally, I wouldn’t put it on the same pedestal as the animated feature, but it definitely holds its own. With an astounding cast, solid direction by Bill Condon and extremely powerful music by Alan Menken, 2017’s Beauty and the Beast is easily the best live-action adaptation of a classic Disney film. As I said when I reviewed the animated film, this truly is a tale as old as time, and for a new generation of film-goers, this is a fantastic film. I highly recommend it.
Final Score: 9/10