For all children of the 80’s and 90’s, the animated 1991 film Beauty & the Beast was a near masterpiece of animated storytelling from the best storytellers of all. In the past Disney has always been the premier company to create a magical animated world in which both children and adults alike can visit and become engrossed and care for the characters on-screen. Most recently they have moved into recreating their classics into live action versions with mixed success.
Disney’s main problem has been that when they recreate a classic tale they either feel the need to create a more compelling back story or to make the world even more fanciful than it should be, but they have learnt their lesson here and in the best possible way. Beauty and the Beast is amazing with fantastic set pieces that feel just like the animated movie. I will apologise now as a lot of this review will compare with the original but as that was a classic and with Disney making so many remakes of their own classics it seems right to compare.
In 1992 Beauty and the Beast won 3 academy awards including Best Original Music Score and they have kept all those old songs we all loved as kids in and sang so wonderfully from the cast, from Emma Watson‘s soft beautiful (pardon the pun) voice to Ewan Mcgregor’s outrageous French accent (which wouldn’t be out-of-place in an episode of ‘Allo ‘Allo) but which works perfectly. So much care and attention has been put into this film and it really shows, every actor and actress looks committed to making this work.
A particular highlight, which I for one wanted to see how they would recreate, was the Be Our Guest sequence, the original was so frantic and full of life, with a small interlude into morose, and this doesn’t disappoint with a fabulously choreographed scene which is both wonderful and enchanting. Even Dan Stevens excels as the brooding foreboding Beast and while his voice has a subwoofer quality it doesn’t sound unintelligible like some films, plus when his charm comes out through the animalistic growls it feels like true innocent charm and makes you feel for this man in animal clothing.
Emma Watson excels as Belle (dare I say award worthy) in a role it looks like she has played her entire life, with a tender innocence while also seeming genuinely strong inside. Luke Evans is perfectly egotistical as Gaston, however Josh Gad is a bit too creepy as LeFou, even to the point where it seems LeFou may be in love with Gaston. Kevin Kline rounds off the main human actors and is the only person who doesn’t convince here, while not a bad performance, it just seems a bit bland, luckily the voice acting talents from the likes of Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson and company is so passionately performed that occasionally you forget that you are watching a teapot and a clock talking.
So committed is Bill Condon and his team to recreating this iconic tale that at times you could play the animated and live action versions side by side and not notice much difference, aside from a small attempt to add a bit of back story to both Belle and the Beast, however this also feels natural and adds to the movie rather than feeling out-of-place like so many recent remakes have done. From the first song to the last, you will feel transported to this magical place and even find yourself singing along dredging up the memories and realising how special those songs were all those years ago.
My Verdict: Overall this is what it always wanted to be which is a fun family film trying to recreate a bit of magic which Disney has lost in its films in recent times. Beauty and the Beast recreates so much of the wonder of the original and re-enforces the message it always wanted to tell, It’s not about what you look like on the outside but what you are like on the inside. It’s a delightful, charming little film which shows that Disney has finally learnt from their mistakes and realised that sometimes you can create something which is a copy of the original with a couple of tweaks, it doesn’t need a completely new story (I’m looking at you Maleficent). This is a beautiful homage to a tale that truly is as old as time.