Disney continues its trend to make live action remakes of its animated classics. So far they have been pretty successful both in box office and in critical acclaim. I myself have only seen The Jungle book and Pete's Dragon and both were just OK. Now we are brought back to one of the 90s gems that sparked the return to form for Disney.
Unlike The Jungle Book which only had a few songs to begin with only 1 1/2 remaining in favour of a more dramatic story, Beauty and the Beast has opted to go full on musical even adding in new songs to fill the longer run time. It's a story bursting with fun and excitement and just enough danger to keep things interesting. It's a story that doesn't stray too far from the original but adds a bit of extra depth to some of its characters. All of whom are perfectly cast, even Ewan McGregor who has said he can't believe they kept him as Lumiere because of his "awful French accent".
Of course the thing most people want to know is, "Does the music live up to the original?", Absolutely. They nailed every single musical number that came from the original with style and passion for the material. Gaston and Le Fou bring all the macho cheese you'd come to expect in their songs. The big showcase of "Be Our Guest" was excellent and "Beauty and the Beast" was sweet and as magical as you could ask for. It really was a lovingly put together film. I caught myself grinning really hard on multiple occasions as I watched the musical numbers unfold. From the sheer technical level this movie succeeds in giving us a reason for its existence. They took a cartoon and brought it to the real world which makes the magic that much more incredible to see.
The newer songs however feel a bit out of place. They don't seem to have the same orchestration as the originals despite having Alan Menken the original composer working on it. They are there to add some depth to the characters and give some more emotional moments but when the rest of the film is so upbeat it does feel a tad out of place. I am not a slave to the original at all. I only remembered the basic outline going in but you could tell. Especially after I told the person I was with "that 'last kill the beast' song was the best by far of the new songs" not knowing it was from the original.
Emma Watson as Belle was easily the best part of the film. She personally just fit the character. When you see her walk into the Beast's library and almost break down crying in joy you completely buy that reaction. The Beast played by Dan Stevens was also well cast. I didn't really like the CG they used on him but it wasn't so distracting that it took me out of it. When you have talking clocks and candlesticks it certainly helps you suspend disbelief in the realness of a character. He had enough charm to him and played the "I'm angry but mostly because I'm alone, afraid and jaded to ever finding love" very well. Their relationship was one built on both being outside of the norm and misunderstood. They learn to love someone because of their kindness and love of books and not just because it was love at first sight which is point of the whole film.
The direction was sweeping and kinetic playing up the fairy tale aspect. The climax wasn't quite as epic as it could have been. There was definitely more grandly staged action scenes but that is a small part of an otherwise well put together film. With excellent set design, costumes,wonderful lighting and a score that brings the whole thing together in a bright shiny production that shows the best of what Hollywood can do with a large budget and talented people.
Disney has finally created a great live action remake of one of their animated classics. It's sweeping, magical, beautifully shot and scored with wonderful performances and enough story to keep things interesting. Faithful and fun with a runtime that goes by rather quickly, thanks to the energy of the songs and the charisma exuded by the entire cast. It's Disney at its finest and should be touted as a seal of approval that live action remakes work when love and passion are poured into something people love.