Beauty and the Beast Review
Beauty and the Beast Review – A Tale as Old as Time Retold
In some ways Beauty and the Beast is a by-the-numbers remake of the Disney animated classic released in 1991. The film still follows Belle, an intelligent young woman from a small French village who yearns for something more than her provincial life provides. Events play out the way you’d expect from the discovery of the castle to the closing moments of the film. Although it doesn’t cover much new ground in terms of themes or story that the other versions and the animated version didn’t, Beauty and the Beast is still a tale worth being told in live action thanks to a wonderful cast, strong music and a light-hearted, fun tone.
Each character in the remake inhabits their role very well. Emma Watson’s Belle is as intelligent and strong-willed as her counterpart in the animated version and the same goes for Dan Stevens as the Beast despite his difference in appearance. Ewan McGregor’s cheesy French accent fits well with Lumiere’s enthusiastic personality while Ian McKellen puts in his usual solid performance as the perpetually distressed Cogsworth. A few characters aside, the actors don’t bring any new dimensions to the characters but that’s not necessarily a criticism given the original Disney film’s lofty estimations among fans. Gaston and Le Fou played by Luke Evans and Josh Gad respectively deserve special credit as their performances and expressions add more humour to the already amusing partnership, Gad in particular certainly seems born to play the sidekick Le Fou.
Of course one of the key elements of many Disney films is music and singing. Beauty and the Beast faithfully sticks to the original list of songs with a couple of new ones thrown in for good measure. These new songs fit in pretty well without drastically changing things and it’s novel to see the original songs performed in live action. There’s a spectacle and grandness to these songs that still holds true 26 years after their debut. The film also does a really neat job of capturing Belle’s French village which is full of life and oddball characters who shun her reading habits with the opening numbers of the film especially strong and well choreographed.
There are some changes in this updated retelling of the story. Most of these are to the film’s benefit with the biggest being Maurice played by Kevin Kline. While Maurice was somewhat of a bumbling character in the original Disney picture, here he is smart with sage advice for Belle early on and has a tragic past which makes the relationship between him and his daughter that much stronger and more interesting. This new element more than any other improves this particular version of the film. Other changes aren’t as helpful including the silent character of Agathe who really doesn’t need to be there and a somewhat random journey to her camp.
Overall, Beauty and the Beast is an entertaining and faithful remake of the 1991 Disney animated film. Emma Watson shines as Belle and the rest of the cast all suit their roles well. The music and singing are at a good standard and the new additions to the track list fit in well enough. While some small changes don’t feel particularly necessary, Beauty and the Beast proves an engaging watch in this updated format.