Disney are on fire with their live action remakes; Cinderella was a huge success and a big improvement over the animated original, The Jungle Book dazzled audiences with it’s great cast and even better visuals, and Pete’s Dragon…Well, I didn’t see Pete’s Dragon, but for the sake of this opening statement, it was good. Now, we have the 1991 classic Beauty and the Beast brought to life on our screens, but does it hold a candle (get it?) to the original?
You all know the story; Belle (Emma Watson) is an intelligent, headstrong young girl living in the French village of Villeneuve, more keen to take on a great book than a husband. This way of live is frowned upon by the villagers. She bats off judgement from her neighbours and the affections of vain hunter Gaston (Luke Evans), while her inventor father (Kevin Kline) rides off to sell his products. However, he gets lost along the way and finds himself captured by a ferocious Beast (Dan Stevens), formerly a cruel prince cursed by an enchantress to take on a hideous appearance until he can find love. Belle valiantly takes her father’s place in the Beast’s dungeon, but soon finds a connection with her captor.
There’s always a bit of hesitance going into remakes like these, especially when you have a large personal attachment to the originals, but I can safely say that Beauty and the Beast is an absolute triumph. It retains many elements the original film so well, while also improving upon it with a lot of needed character development; while the original is by far one of Disney’s best works, it could do with being about 20-30 minutes longer, so that certain character traits and motivations have more time to be fleshed out and understood. This film lasts a good 38 minutes longer and is all the better for it. New scenes are added in for Gaston and LeFou, and backstories for Belle and the Beast that add depth to their characters, and make the procession of their romance feel a bit more real. All sides are considered and it makes them very easy to invest in. Aside from that, it’s hard to really say whether one of them is better than the other; they both have a remarkable sense of fun, wonder, hilarity and emotion, and it’s impossible to say which one has more because they both feel like their own individual experiences. They should be appreciated for their merits as opposed to being pitted against each other, which is the natural and understandable approach taken towards most remakes.
The visuals in this film are incredible; so much of the wonder and enticement towards this film stems from the fact that it’s so damn gorgeous. It’s so inviting, and just ignites the screen and the passion within you. But where this film truly shines is it’s cast. Pretty much every actor in this film does a great job. Emma Watson and Dan Stevens may be the leads, and they do very well, but the supporting cast blow them out of the water. Kevin Kline and Josh Gad are great on the human side, and every single cast member who played a household item was perfect, most of all Ewan McGregor as Lumiere (The only French character in this entire film that’s set in France, and he’s played by a Scotsman). He’s hilarious, and deliriously engaging, even if it’s just his voice for the most part.
You don’t realise it yet, but Ewan McGregor singing Be Our Guest is something you really need in your life, though we must give props to Emma Thompson for being frankly perfect casting for Mrs. Potts, and for her great rendition of the iconic titular song.
Everyone is great, but Luke Evans as Gaston….Oh man. Oh man oh man oh man. If there are words to describe how good he is, they haven’t been invented yet. Evans embodies the character overwhelmingly; he sinks right into it, embraces every moment and is clearly loving it. I don’t know if it’s possible to have more fun this year than watching him sing Gaston’s song in the tavern, which is also the most perfect sequence of the film hands down, amongst many great iterations of the original’s films music and some new songs thrown in too. It’s absolute electrifying, and every moment of the film that doesn’t have him on screen is poorer for it. I’m going to go as far to say that he deserves an Oscar nomination, because he is just that good.
Above all else, Beauty and the Beast is a feel good film. I can’t tell you how elated I was when I walked out, and I can’t imagine anyone not being extremely happy after seeing it. It’s a thrilling, mesmerising, extremely well acted and remarkably engrossing tale as old as time that will definitely go down as one of Disney’s best live action efforts.
Beauty and the Beast is out on DVD & Blu-Ray now!