Disney’s always had its success deeply rooted in its countless variety of animated films and storytelling. Lately, Disney has found smashing success with turning those ink and paint masterpieces into live action money makers. After hearing how absurdly successful their live remakes of “Cinderella,” “Maleficent”, and “The Jungle Book” were, Disney unsurprisingly has stockpiled their schedule with all sorts of upcoming live adaptions of their animated classics, including: Dumbo, Pinocchio, Jungle Book 2, The Little Mermaid, Oliver and Company, Sword in the Stone, Aladdin and of course…Beauty and the Beast. Easily one of their most successful and well-regarded films, “Beauty and Beast” has had its story told dozens of times but NONE have ever tried to retell Disney’s specific version in this way.
With promises of classic songs being faithfully represented and new characters obtaining some controversy sparking alterations (more on that later), this film has something for everyone to talk about; one way or another. So let’s go over the story we already know and love so well: Belle (Emma Watson) discovers that her father (Kevin Kline) has been captured by a monstrous Beast (Dan Stevens), who will only release her if she stays in his enchanted castle with him in her father’s place. Fearful at first, Belle slowly learns that maybe…just maybe she could learn to love a Beast, even if her would-be boyfriend Gaston (Luke Evan) refuses to allow it. Unlike Disney’s takes on “Cinderella” and the Sleeping Beauty story through “Maleficent”, this one plays it extremely close to the book and is, at many times, word-for-word from the animated classic.
The songs you all know and love are here and represented in a spectacularly beautiful fashion. Never has “Be Our Guest” looked so stunningly gorgeous and the new additions and implications of the “Gaston” song bring new rounds of character development and humor to the buff baddie and his loving (literally) lackey LeFou (Josh Gad). But, at the same time, this is not an exact live action portrayal of the animated film. There are more similarities than differences, no doubt, but the differences that are utilized give whole new meaning to many of the characters. For instance, the likes of Lumiere, Cogsworth and Mrs. Potts (Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen and Emma Thompson respectively) will actually die/become ordinary objects if the curse is not broken in time; not staying as items forever like before.
Another addition is making LeFour canonically gay, which many groups and angry parents have blasted Disney for including. This inclusion however not only makes sense for the role but actually gives the character depth and more purpose than the diminutive little yes man he was in the cartoon. Subtle changes and inclusions, like this, actually helps correct some of the ignorable flaws the animated film suffered from and fills in a few plot holes here and there too. The cast truly became their animated counterparts, both in design and in range. Emma Watson makes the perfect Bell. She perfectly embodies her beauty, her strength, her sharp wit and mind and reminds children, everyone, what a proper female role model looks and acts like. Dan Stevens plays the Beast fairly well, though personally, I would have rather seen him act through prosthetics than motion capture.
Luke Evans makes an excellent Gaston. He sings flawlessly and actually, makes him a more believable obnoxious villain without over exaggerating. There’s so much to like, love and gush over this film that it would take me dozens of pages to cover every single one. Viewers expecting a radically different experience from the cartoon will admittedly be disappointed. As I said before, this film plays very closely to its cartoon counterpart so its predictability is unfortunately everywhere. You can see every song, moment and even certain lines coming a mile away if you’re familiar enough with the animated film. But aside from that and some weakly developed prejudicial town people harking on Belle’s desire to educate others, the film has more polish than rust to offer.
Overall, Disney’s live take on “Beauty and the Beast” may stick too closely to the source material to expect anything truly different, the differences it does possess create new motivations and outcomes for characters we thought we already knew inside and out. This is a beautiful looking film with a luscious score, stellar cast and it faithfully and fantastically brings one of Disney’s best works of cinematic art to luminous light. It will by no means replace or be a superior incarnation over the animated film, but it is too beautifully crafted and casted to miss out on another enchanted journey into a fairy tale we will clearly never get tired of watching and loving over and over again, and this live adaptation is proof of that.
I give “Beauty and the Beast” (2017), 3 stars out of 4.