Directed by Bill Condon
Starring Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad
Film Review by Andy McZomb
Let’s start by saying Beauty and the Beast is pretty much a carbon copy of the 1991 animation. If you’re a fan of that and let’s face it, you are, then you should be more than satisfied with this live action remake.
Is there something there that wasn’t there before? No. The cartoon comes in at 1 hour and 50 minutes while the remake hits the 2 hour 10 minute mark so there has to have been some element of ‘padding’ to pick up the run time. They did this through mildly interesting, mostly irrelevant backstories. Do we need to know why Belle’s mother isn’t around? It’s like putting a bauble on top of the Christmas tree after you’ve already stuck the star up.
We travel into these backstories while ignoring potentially pertinent information like, where is the Beast’s rich father aka the King? I guess that’s one of those questions you’re not meant to think about. Like why Lumière is seemingly the only French character in a story entirely based in France.
Bill Condon putting more emotional emphasis on these anthropomorphic characters is a welcome addition. You learn what it means to them to break the spell and have a sense of their loss if it were to not work out for the Beast and Belle. If the animation told a story of a whimsical talking teacup, this one reveals the heartache behind a little boy that could very well never see the sun again.
One thing that rarely receives any criticism in a Disney production is the CGI special effects. They don’t fail to impress here with the Beast and his legion of household item slaves flawlessly slotting into the story, fangs and all. The upcoming Lion King remake will surely be a dance in the ballroom after successfully humanising a feather duster.
Although Disney’s recent live action Cinderella remake was a shambles, they stepped it up with The Jungle Book, especially with the Oscar winning special effects. However they played around too much with the original music (slow jazz Christopher Walken ‘I wanna be like you’ anyone?). Other than a few modernised, additional verses, the songs are like for like from the source material. Some would see this as a negative but realistically, would you really want them to change the music? Would you go to an Oasis reunion to hear their latest ensemble of modern flops or would you be eagerly waiting on them blasting out classic Wonderwall?
Even the new songs hold up and don’t seem particularly out of place. ‘Evermore’ performed by Dan Steven’s operatic husky beast voice is a fine addition that hits much harder than the original beastly ‘roar’ as Belle rides away from the castle to save crazy old Maurice.
Emma Watson leads the modern woman revolution at Disney, pilfering her father’s occupation as an inventor and not only portraying herself as a smart, well-read woman as the classic does but even attempts to teach the next generation of female to read before the disgusted residents of her provincial town shut that nonsense down. This is a not so subtle way of showing male chauvinists just how absurd these archaic attitudes are.
Luke Evans stands out as the narcissistic man beast Gaston. He treats the role with just the right amount of evil washed in comedy. His back and forth with Disney’s first ‘openly gay’ character Lefou, is a certainly an attempted step forward but felt more like a wobble in that direction. It’s implied but nothing more throughout until a ONE SECOND glimpse of a man on man dance in the closing scenes. Disney promised they’d bare all and for me when they removed their coat they still had their underwear on.
Overall this is what a Disney fan is looking for when they go to see one of these relentless remakes. Like an uninvited Aunty that brought 20 quid with her for you, Beauty and the Beast is entirely unasked for, but remains close enough to the original to fully immerse you in that nostalgic tale as old as time.