Overall: 18/20 – A
Let’s face it. It is a world of sequels, repeats, and endless superhero movies (though Logan is totally worth it). Yes, remakes are everywhere these days, particularly with the debut of the new Power Rangers movie, hints at Mary Poppins Returns, and yet another Pirates of the Caribbean on the horizon. Which is why when I first heard they were re-making Beauty & the Beast into a live-action film, I had my doubts. I hadn’t been impressed when they did Cinderella. It had it’s charming moments, but it didn’t live up to the hype and seemed only slightly longer than its animated counterpart. Even with the big names associated with it, I couldn’t shake the feeling this new Beauty & the Beast was going to fall completely flat.
So very wrong.
For once, Disney took an already fantastic film and improved it. The music was sweeping, the artistry was par excellence, and the actors were charming. It was more than I could have ever hoped for.
If for some reason you hate all things Disney… A) How could you? and B) How did you manage to find my blog? However, if the above is true, Beauty & the Beast is the story of a cursed prince who must learn to love or remain a beast and the small town girl with big dreams who sees past all the hairiness to the loveable person hidden inside. There you are all caught up.
Despite that it was only opening weekend, I managed to see Beauty & the Beast twice in theaters. The first time was to check out what kind of 3D effects were available and the 2nd was just to enjoy the magic.
Plotwise, it was nice to see several holes from the original animated version have finally disappeared. For years, people debated the age of the prince when he was transformed, determining he must have been 11 years old when transformed if he’d been a Beast for 10 years and was going to remain a beast if his 21st birthday passed him by without love. This time around, they removed that pesky time limitation. They also explained how an entire castle and it’s contents could just up and vanish into nowhere with no one questioning it (something I’d asked myself more than once). Another addition that was most welcome was the acknowledgement the Beast not only could read, but had an “expensive” education and knew how to put those brains to good use. I never understood how a rich prince during that era could possibly not be educated. The average lay person certainly, but not a wealthy man with an amazing library.
In terms of casting, they did a stellar job of selecting voices and faces to match. Josh Gad brings a flair to Le Fou which was a refreshing change. He was a voice of reason and proved more than once he knew how to handle Gaston’s ego and still be hilariously snarky. Ewan McGregor as Lumiere was a brilliant choice even if his voice was unrecognizable. Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts was a good choice, but it was hard to get past the fact that it wasn’t Angela Lansbury.
Luke Evans was everything I could have wanted in a Gaston. He had the voice, he had the physique, and he had appropriate sinister vibes. So much so that when he finally met his timely death, a small girl in my theater actually yelled “YAY!” much to the amusement of the rest of the audience. Sir Ian McKellen was an excellent choice as Cogsworth, but it was disappointing he had so little screen/vocal time. Emma Watson actually made a charming Belle and I loved that rather than just telling us she had a brain, they showed it. She plots her escape, proves herself an inventor, and displays critical thinking skills every little girl deserves to see in a princess. Even Dan Stevens did a credible job as the Beast. He had the voice down pat and when finally revealed as the prince, actually matched the animated version.
Probably what stands out most is the sheer amount of artistry in this movie. The Beast’s castle has expanded far beyond the original animated version.. Viewers are exposed to the ruins of a crumbling castle with a myriad of hallways, staircases and rooms to explore. As the story is set in France, for once, they seemed to actually pay attention to the designs of the period and had gorgeous statues, gold filigree, and many other exquisite details (I’m not an art major, I can’t tell you names, but it’s very, VERY pretty to look at). Even at the height of crumbliness, the castle is beautiful and then when the grime falls away at the end, it is truly breathtaking. The other notable place is Gaston’s Tavern, which is rich with local color, the necessary antlers, and actually looks like a place people would enjoy hanging out in.
Taking into account more than half of the cast was CGI, they had to make sure to do something truly phenomenal. The detail on Lumiere and Cogsworth were extremely intricate and even more closely resembled real objects than ever before. Even the CGI Beast was more believable than I was expecting. Changing Plumette into a peacock duster was an inspired move and far more exquisite than an ordinary animated duster. The Be Our Guest sequence was amazingly detailed though it was possibly the most altered of all the songs in terms of pacing, vocals, and overall styles.
Die-hard fans of the animated version might be slightly annoyed with the music, as some of it has changed from the original. There are several new songs including “Days In The Sun,” and the Beast’s soliloquy “Evermore,” but in my opinion they are still spot-on and capture the overall tone of the movie. I can live with the few changes in songs they made. Gaston has always been one of my favorite villains and coincidentally his song, along with The Mob Song are an improvement over the previous version. Even Kevin Kline gets to show off his pipes with a heart-breaking version of “How Does a Moment Last Forever.” Major props to all the actors as they all did their own vocals. The score itself was amazing as well, though I didn’t get the same chills that I did with the animated version.
This is one movie I actually recommend seeing in 3D. There are more elements than normal for a live-action film and they actually add a certain depth. I’ve seen it in both formats and think the 3D version is preferable. But the 2D version is also a gorgeous rendition and well worth viewing.
Adults: A gorgeous remake of a classic from our childhood. I see nothing wrong with it and encourage everyone to see it.
Children: See the original. But also go see this one. Both. Both is good.
A max of 5 stars for each category: Plot, Acting, Visuals, Music. Films will receive an overall score out of 20 and an equivalent letter grade.
A = 16-20 stars
B = 11-15 stars
C = 6-10 stars
D = 1-5 stars