26 years ago Beauty and the Beast hit cinemas, and it was a smash hit. It was the first animated film to be nominated for three Academy Awards, most importantly Best Picture. Now Disney has released a live-action iteration of the tale as old as time, starring Emma Watson, Dan Stevens and an incredible cast of talented actors. The question now was there a reason to revisit this story and if so was it any good?
Beauty and the Beast follows Belle (Watson) an intrepid forwarding thinking girl in a small village who wishes for so much more than her life has offered her thus far. She loves her father Maurice (Kevin Kline), but she constantly has to put up with the ignorance of her small backwards village which is personified in Gaston (Luke Evans) an oafish individual who wishes to marry Belle. It seems her life is stuck the way it is until Maurice disappears, she searches for him and comes across a haunting castle filled with enchanted furniture and a horrifying Beast (Dan Stevens).
If you can’t already tell Beauty and the Beast is almost word for word the same story as its animated ancestor. There are a few changes and omissions from the animated feature and save for one or two of them they are unnecessary. An example is a magical book that allows the Beast and Belle to travel anywhere in the whole world. The film makes it out as a cruel reminder to the Beast that he will be rejected if he leaves the “safety” of his cursed castle, but it takes away from the idea that he is trapped in a prison of his making.
The acting is at a decent level, for the most part, Watson and Stevens have an excellent rapport, and there are several highlights in the film. Luke Evans is brilliant as Gaston; Josh Gad is hilarious as Le Fou feeling like he was ripped from the original film all the while still putting his mark on Le Fou. However, there are issues, Lumiere (Ewan McGregor) is horrible in this film. The accent is off-putting, and his portrayal is annoying Cogsworth (Ian McKellen) thankfully is an excellent foil giving many of the scenes a much needed deadpan humour.
On the design of the characters, there are several issues the Beast is an interesting one, Stevens plays him well, but he is let down by a fluctuating quality in CGI. He’s not imposing enough to lend an actual sense of fear when he is introduced, and there are times when Belle and Beast are together that technically look unimpressive. The furniture looks okay, but nothing stands out as truly innovative and impressive.
Now onto the musical aspect of Beauty and the Beast: The songs are okay, and the performances are equally as safe. There are exceptions, the Beast gets his own solo, and it is deeply moving. Everyone else is singing all the songs we all know and love, but it never feels like they’re giving it their all, the songs don’t have that extra oomph, and the film is lesser for it.
In the end, I liked Beauty and the Beast, it was fun, the performances are commendable, and the songs will enthral young audiences. However the original is easily the superior film, and in my opinion, this was an unnecessary remake. If anything majorly good comes out of Beauty and the Beast it is that it will make you want to return to the original film and remind you of why you fell in love with that tale as old as time.