Written By: Nick Poulimenakos
A tale as old as time… After having an incredible 2016, which saw the releases of Pete’s Dragon, The Jungle Book, Moana and Zootopia, Disney returns to the big screen with another “animation-to-live action” film. This time, it’s one of the company’s heaviest hitters ever – Beauty and the Beast. The original, which was released way back in 1991, is one of the few animated features to be nominated for the Oscar for Best Picture. It is a Disney classic and was one of the movies to help launch Disney into a “renaissance” in the 90’s. Now, with an ensemble cast and a lot more money, Disney, along with director Bill Condon, have adapted the story to live-action and created a faithful yet unique film that, while not quite as good as the original, is dramatic, funny and, above all else, entertaining.
Beauty and the Beast follows Belle (Emma Watson), an intelligent, striking and independent young woman. After her father is captured and imprisoned by a Beast (Dan Stevens), she agrees to take his place in the castle. Despite her initial resentment, she slowly starts to befriend the Beast and the castle’s enchanted staff and service and learns to look beyond the repugnant outside of the Beast and recognize the kind heart and emotion that is trapped inside of him.
In the lead role, Emma Watson succeeds at bringing the enchanting Belle to life. She is curious, smart and has immense wonder in her eyes. I didn’t even realize Watson could sing and above that, sing so well. She nails fan favourite tracks like “Belle” and brings a real sense of independence to the classic heroine. Watson finds the right combination of virtuousness and determination which leads to a great performance as the Disney princess.
Dan Stevens, despite being disguised in quite a bit of CGI, plays a very convincing Beast. He is scary, vulnerable and demonstrates great chemistry with Watson’s Belle. Stevens gives viewers a flawed human monster and shows that his character is one that would be worth saving. The castle’s enchanted staff is led by Ewan McGregor as Lumiere and Ian McKellen as Cogsworth. Both were exceptional in their CGI roles as they played more to the comic relief of the film. McGregor especially was entertaining as he put on a French accent for the two hour film.
I needed to dedicate an entire paragraph to Luke Evans as Gaston because he was that good. Easily my favourite character from the film, Evans was born the play this role. He portrays the heavily inflated ego of the fan favourite Disney villain perfectly, giving viewers a loveable, loathsome character who steals every scene he is in. His performance of the musical number “Gaston,” assisted by the always wonderful Josh Gad as Le Fou, is fantastic and is one of the movie’s best moments.
One of the most important aspects to the original 1991 classic is the music. After all, it did with the Academy Award for best original score. The 2017 edition may not be as phenomenal as its animated counterpart but that doesn’t mean it’s not great. The “Be Our Guest” sequence was incredible and is my personal favourite moment from the film. Songs like “Gaston,” “Belle,” and “Something There” evoke the same feelings from the original and the new cast does them justice. Emma Thompson may not be Angela Lansbury, but her rendition of “Beauty and the Beast” was excellent in my opinion. Alan Menken, who composed the original film, returns to score this film and once again prospers in creating an exciting, dramatic score that keeps viewers excited through every scene.
Bill Condon’s adaptation is not perfect by any means and this movie does have its faults. I thought the film felt a bit rushed. From the moment Belle takes her father’s place as the Beast’s prisoner, the movie felt like it was on fast-forward. It moves very quickly from Belle being scared of the Beast to her learning to care for him. The CGI in the film was great but in certain sequences, it could have been better. Despite loving Dan Stevens’ performances, I wondered if a CGI Beast was the right way to go instead of prosthetics and makeup. The film also adds in three new songs which I really didn’t care for. They were fine, but nothing too memorable there. Finally, and this was pointed out by Talkies Network member Artur Galvao, the movie technically has no stakes. Since this is an adaptation, the movie is already played out. So, when scenes like Gaston fighting the Beast come on screen, you are not worried because you already know the outcome. I don’t feel like this takes away from the viewing experience however.
The film looks extremely beautiful. Condon and the visual effects artists blend CGI with real locations seamlessly. I need to mention again how incredible the “Be Our Guest” number is. The work that went into putting that together paid off in the best way. I personally love cinematography and Beauty and the Beast definitely succeeds in giving viewers gorgeous shots such as Belle in her village and the Beast’s castle. Condon’s shooting on location, aided by layers of CGI gives Disney another beautifully shot feature.
Overall, it’s not the original. But that’s okay. I went into this film wanting to have fun and be entertained and the movie thrived. Beauty and the Beast is a simple adaptation that includes striking visuals, stunning musical numbers and memorable performances from Emma Watson and Luke Evans. Despite its flaws, Bill Condon delivers a captivating movie experience that will remind viewers of why the tale as old as time is so thrilling and is yet another win for the House of Mouse.
Nick’s Rating – 7.9/10
Artur’s Rating – 7.8/10
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