A tale as old as time indeed. In the world of Disney remakes, Beauty and the Beast is a definite hit in a series of live-action princess movies. Remaking such a beloved classic is a risk, especially when the majority of the characters still have to be animated.
The majority of casting for this movie was perfection. Unfortunately the main performance that fell a little flat was the one from Emma Watson (Hermione Granger in Harry Potter). However, this may easily be explained by the fact that the majority of the time, Watson was acting across from nothing. That being said, everyone else in the cast was nearly perfect in their roles. It is not easy to make the audience fall in love with an enormous beast, but Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey) brings life to the character, making an animated beast seem extremely life-like. Joining Stevens as animated characters are Ewan McGregor (Renton in Trainspotting) as Lumière, Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf in Lord of the Rings) as Cogsworth, Emma Thompson (Karen in Love Actually) as Mrs. Potts, Audra McDonald (Dr. Naomi Bennett in Private Practice) as Madame Garderobe, Stanley Tucci (Caesar Flickerman in The Hunger Games) as Maestro Cadenza, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Prema Mutiso in Concussion) as Plumette. Even though all of their characters were animated for the majority of the film, these actors brought life and personality to them. While the animated characters were extremely well done, there were two actors who really stole the show. This honor went to Luke Evans (Bard in The Hobbit) as Gaston and Josh Gad (Olaf in Frozen) as LeFou. Gad brought a dimension to the character that was not previously there and makes him one of the most enjoyable characters in the film.
Not only is the story nearly spot on to that of the original, but it adds to it by giving more dimension and backstory to not only the characters but the plot as well. Audiences are given more information about Belle’s mother and what the Beast’s childhood was like. In addition to this the servants are given more history and flaws in the original curse (for example: why no one in the village remembers there being a prince) are explained. One of the biggest, and most interesting, changes though is that they not only gave LeFou more dimension, but they also made him gay. This is a big step in the right direction for Disney as they have never really had a gay character in a film before.
The original Beauty and the Beast from 1991 contains some of the most iconic Disney songs of all time from “Be Our Guest” and “Beauty and the Beast”, to “Belle” and “Gaston”, all of which are well done in the new version as well. “Be Our Guest” is one of the most visually stunning scenes in the whole film, and McGregor sings the song much better than I expected. However, neither “Be Our Guest” nor “Beauty and the Beast” live up the original versions vocally. Not only does this new version of the film use all of these classics, but also adds three new songs that help add to the story. The new songs include “Evermore” sung by Dan Stevens, “How Does a Moment Last Forever” sung by both Kevin Kline (Otto in A Fish Called Wanda) in the role of Maurice and Watson, and “Days in the Sun” sung by all of the Beast’s servants. All of these songs dig deeper into the emotions for the characters (I may have started crying during “Evermore”…).
The majority of this film relies heavily on special effects, be it for sets or characters. Most of the time, the animated characters looked flawless, but there were a few times that Beast looked very fake and obviously animated. That being said, the way the animated characters moved was flawless, even if at times it felt unrealistic (I mean Lumière should have set a ton of things on fire, and most of the furniture would be broken) even if it is magic. However, most of the animation as it relates to sets and production is spot on, all though sometimes it could feel overproduced.
Overall, I give Beauty and the Beast a 8.3/10 stars.