Beauty and the Beast Captures Some of the Disney Magic
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A tale as old as time and considered one of Disney’s crowning achievements of a young maiden who tames the heart of a beast. Beauty and the Beast is beloved by audiences of all ages and made history of being the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. When it was announced that this would be the next film to get the live-action treatment, the response was understandably less than pleased.
Interestingly, I didn’t watch the original as a kid; I was familiar with the songs but had never seen the film in its entirety. I was in my preteens when I viewed it for the first time, however it was in Spanish. Regardless, I enjoyed it very much. The week the remake was set to premiere did I finally watch it in its original dub. While not among my favorite of the classic Disney collection, I can see why it’s considered one of Disney’s best; from the musical numbers, intense drama, memorable characters including the brave and independent Belle, and the romance that blossoms between her and the Beast.
So how does the 2017 live-action remake hold up? When it came to the cast, I had my doubts and the trailers didn’t improve my spirits but the moment Belle began to sing the opening song, my worries were quickly diminished and began to enjoy the movie. From the production design, costumes and special effects especially the Beast, it all looks really well. There’s just something magical that only Disney can achieve of seeing your favorite animated characters come to life. Emma Watson (Hermione from the Harry Potter series) shines remarkably as Belle, Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley from Downtown Abbey) is amazing as the Beast and the romance between them is just as adorable and developed like in the original. Kevin Kline (Phoebus from Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame) as Maurice, Belle’s father, is still the inventive tinkerer; in one of the many changes he plays the role in a sad and serious direction compared to his animated bumbling counterpart but still retains the same charm. Even Luke Evans (Bard from The Hobbit Trilogy) and Josh Gad (Olaf from Disney’s Frozen) are well-cast in the roles of the self-conceited Gaston and his loyal lackey LeFou.
The familiar denizens of the castle also have some good actors in these familiar roles from Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan from the Star Wars prequels) as the debonair candelabra Lumière, Ian McKellen (Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings & Hobbit Trilogy) as the pompous clock Cogsworth, Emma Thompson (Captain Amelia from Disney’s Treasure Planet) as the charming teapot Mrs. Potts, and newcomer Nathan Mack as her teacup son Chip. Among the few updates in the household cast are Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Superstar singer Noni in Beyond the Lights) as Plummete, theater actress and opera singer Audra McDonald as Madame Cadenza who were the unnamed feather duster and wardrobe in the original and Stanley Tucci (Caesar Flickerman from The Hunger Games) as Maestro Cadenza a harpsichord piano who is a new character in this movie. (I can only guess that the idea inspired by the villainous pipe organ voiced by Tim Curry in Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas, but I digress)
This movie was alright, it may not be good as the Cinderella and The Jungle Book live-action remakes but it’s not bad to the level of say Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent. The problem it does suffer is that with the exception of some minor tweaks to the story it’s an almost shot-for-shot copy of the original. What made Cinderella and The Jungle Book work was that while they drew inspiration from both the original source material and Disney counterpart, they were their own story and not an exact replica of the animated versions.
Director Bill Condon is no stranger when it comes to musicals having worked on Dreamgirls and Chicago; the Broadway touch gives the movie a nice setting and works to its advantage with the musical numbers. With the exception of a couple of tracks, the songs don’t pack the same energy as in the animated version but are still performed decently; many of the new songs are a nice addition that I found myself tearing up a couple of times.
Among the few promising updates include why the villagers weren’t aware of the castle prior to Maurice, a look into why the Beast became a selfish prince that lead to his curse, the fate of Belle’s mother, and Belle being told why the castle is enchanted. It’s not in full detail but she has an idea of the Beast’s pain and the situation they are in. Whether you were for or against the idea of LeFou being gay, it’s a subject that is barely mentioned in the movie and while there are some implications and risqué moments it never goes into full detail and when it does it’s for mostly comedic purposes. Regardless, it doesn’t have an effect on the story other than to make LaFou a more redeemable character.
Beauty and the Beast manages to be o.k. landing in the middle among the live-action remakes where it at least honors its source material preventing it from being a complete disaster.