BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (USA/PG/129 min)
Directed by Bill Condon. Starring Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Luke Evans.
THE PLOT: After he takes a rose from The Beast’s (Dan Stevens) garden for his daughter Belle (Emma Watson), Maurice (Kevin Kline) finds himself imprisoned in Thee Beast’s castle. Belle comes to her father’s rescue and takes his place, and it is not long before Belle realises the castle and all those who dwell within it are under a curse, and time is running out for them. The more Belle gets to know The Beast, the more she sees the kind heart underneath the gruff exterior.
THE VERDICT: It is hard to think of this new live action version of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ without thinking of the iconic 1991 animated film, and this new version is definitely inspired by and takes cues from the original Disney film, but manages to stand on its own two feet.
Emma Watson leads the cast as Belle, and while she has never managed to exude sex appeal, there is a charm to her interpretation of Belle that makes it easy for the audience to love her. As well as this, Watson makes Belle a more independent woman than we have seen before – albeit not by much – and she certainly hits the mark when it comes to singing. Dan Stevens – currently starring in TV’s Legion – makes The Beast gruff but charming, and he truly gets a chance to show off the character’s vulnerability in a way that we have never truly seen before. Luke Evans almost steals the show as Gaston; he camps the character up and has fun with this over the top and egotistical character, Josh Gad happily plays the smarmy sidekick and works well with Evans when they are together. Ewan McGregor makes Lumiére bubbly and effervescent, and works well with the more straightlaced Cogsworth, played by Ian McKellen. The rest of the cast features Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci, Audra McDonald and Kevin Kline.
The screenplay, adapted by from Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s tale, via the 1991 movie by Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos stays very close to what Disney have done before, but makes sure that Maurice takes a back seat, while allowing Belle to move to the fore. There are a lot of lines of dialogue lifted from the 1991 film – which will keep fans of the original happy – and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. There are times when attempts to fill out the back story – like just what happened to Belle’s mother – are oddly clunky and detract from the story as a whole. As well as this, some of the new songs added to the film add to the romance, but some manage to make the pacing of the story grind to a halt.
As director, Bill Condon brings his ‘Dreamgirls’ experience to ‘Beauty and the Beast’, and there is a touch of magic to the film that comes from the performances, and the over the top musical numbers that not only delight, but manage to move the story along. There are times when the pacing drops, but this is only when the film moves away from the romantic tale at its heart. The production design is beautiful, with the small French town feeling like real places that still exist in the world, and the castle feeling like a true touch of Disney magic. The CGI stumbles in places, but overall, the illusion is complete in ‘Beauty and the Beast’.
In all, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is a beautiful and faithful adaptation of the beloved 1991 animated film, with the cast rising to the occasion admirably. The songs are a delight, the design beautiful, and the film only stumbles when it forgets that it is a romance at its heart. Oh, and the furore about a gay love story in the film is completely blown out of proportion, just in case you were wondering. Overall, however, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is a film of wonder and romance, and is a worthy remake of a beloved classic.
RATING: 4/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    On a roll with their live action remakes of their earlier animated hits, Disney have now turned to their 1991 adaptation of Beauty And The Beast. This new version has many admirable aspects, but is it all that it appears?

    A vain prince (Dan Stevens) is cursed for his selfishness by a witch and is transformed into a monstrous Beast. All his friends desert him and his now-dark palace, his only companions being animated household items such as candelabra Lumiere (Ewan McGregor), clock Cogsworth (Ian McKellen) and teapot Mrs Potts (Emma Thompson). With time slipping away via the petals of a protected rose, he must fall in love again to break the spell. But who would love a Beast? Meanwhile, in a nearby village Belle (Emma Watson) lives with her toymaker father Maurice (Kevin Kline). She’s something of an outsider in the town, refusing the advances of self-loving fop Gaston (Luke Evans). When Maurice takes shelter from a storm in the Beast’s castle, he becomes a prisoner. Belle sets out to free him, with Gaston and his simpering sidekick LeFou (Josh Gad) taking note and stirring up trouble among the (angry) villagers…

    This new take on the timeless fairytale offers a handsomely-staged production and some winning characterisation. The film looks – and sounds – gorgeous, with every little detail in the production popping out in radiant colour. No need for 3D at all, as it just darkens Tobias A. Schliessler’s cinematography. 2D is just fine. The strong characterisation is also of note, with a quality voice cast bringing their animated objects to life. Though, McGregor’s French accent is pure ‘ow-you-zay. He might want to work on that with his wife, who is French. Watson makes a winning heroine – caring, resourceful and, as is the norm now, feisty and independent. Less certain is Stevens, though the fault lies more with the visual effects department. Stevens played the part on set in full costume, but the Beast has a digital face and it shows. CGI has yet to convince us that characters can mouth dialogue convincingly. The character comes across as a little too human and not enough of the Beast comes out. Disney don’t want to frighten the little kiddies, presumably.

    Disney were originally thinking of dropping the songs from the 1991 production, but Condon objected. The story would work just fine without the songs and they do feel a little crowbarred in at times. However, they’re fine songs and the cast perform them with gusto. That whole fuss about the so-called gay agenda in the film, revolving around Le Fou’s unrequited love of Gaston, turned out to be nothing much. It’s all very discreet, in the same way as Star Trek Beyond did with Sulu last year. Some people just need to chill and not work themselves into a lather. It’s a sign of progressiveness that is commendable of Disney. Beauty And The Beast is a lovely film – sweet, romantic, funny and occasionally irreverent (e.g. Belle getting a snowball the size of a cannonball in the face). It lacks some depth and wobbles here and there like Cogsworth, but there’s still much to enjoy here. Now, what about that remake of The Black Hole, Disney? ***

  • emerb

    Has it really been 26 years since Disney released the Oscar winning Beauty And The Beast animation? Now, I feel old! Like “Cinderella” and “The Jungle Book”, a live-action version has been brought to the big screen, this time by director Bill Condon, whose career has covered everything from the gorey horror “Candyman” to the big belting musical “Dreamgirls” to teen favourite “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn”. Yet fear not, even the most passionate fans of the adored 1991 original need not worry that this movie will ruin the charm and nostalgia. While there are subtle tweaks such as more characters and extra songs, Condon is faithful to the core of the story and all the familiar elements
    are in place. He knows what he’s doing and this movie really is something special – an enchanting, lively, charming, delightful fantasy which is likely to leave you walking out with a big smile and plenty of tunes stuck in your ears!

    Emma Watson is Belle, a novel-loving and intelligent young girl who lives a peaceful life in a small picture-book French village with her father Maurice (Kevin Kline), a clockwork toymaker grieving over the death of his beloved wife. We also meet encounter Luke Evans as the vain, swaggering, cocksure Gaston, who has returned from war along with his foppish sidekick Le Fou (Josh Gad), who gazes on at his brutish leader with adoring eyes. Belle is mocked by the villagers and feels trapped, yearning for a different life. Just as she thinks her troubles can’t get any worse, she finds herself held prisoner in a mysterious, decrepit castle
    presided over by the Beast, an enchanted prince who is cursed to remain a monster in a kingdom cast in an eternal winter, that is, unless somebody falls for him. Slowly, the beautiful Belle comes to see the tender heart beneath the exterior and with a little help from the assorted objects in the castle, love begins to work its’ magic.

    Watson’s wonderful performance anchors the movie. With her sweet, clear singing voice and assured confidence, she is perfectly cast as Belle and immediately charms in her big opening number. She wholly embodies Belle’s compassion, strength and intelligence and is the ideal modern, independent heroine. Of course, this is no doubt helped by the fact that she’s most well known for playing the equally headstrong Hermione Granger. Dan Stevens is rather bland as a vain human prince but his horned, ugly monster is splendid, aided by his smooth, deep voice. Luke Evans is having the time of his life as Gaston and he’s a hoot – utterly camp, pompous and narcissistic. Along with Josh Gad as Disney’s first, unambiguously gay character, the pair are a sheer delight. Emma
    Thompson as Mrs. Potts is joined by other household objects with the voices
    (and briefly, the faces) of movie stars. Stanley Tucci and Audra McDonald are the grinning harpsichord and the operatic wardrobe, Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellen are the affable candelabra and the anxious clock and Gugu Mbatha-Raw is Plumette, the feather duster. You almost forget they are mechanical objects, their banter and singing is so vivid and real. All of the cast give it their all in fully committed performances and it’s all so magical, humorous, colourful and lively that you just can’t help falling in love with them all. There is no doubt about it, Condon has done everything in his power to make this film a dazzling spectacle, he literally pulls out all the stops when it counts. The Be Our Guest sequence is a real highlight – a magical, choreographic extravaganza and then, of course, there’s that legendary ballroom waltz scene – so stunning, elaborate and enchanting. You are wowed and wowed again and again…. The settings are magnificent, the dark, lonely part of the Beast’s foreboding
    castle is filled with undulating carvings of stags and hunting dogs, serpents and gargoyles surrounded in acres of winter gardens, while Belle’s guest room is presided over by a maiden’s dream boudoir in luscious blue, gold and cream and what a library! The costume designer also takes the Disney motifs – Belle’s yellow gown, Beast’s suit. I was in awe – for me, this is a perfectly executed Disney fairytale with lavishly stunning visuals, perfectly staged musical numbers and thoroughly entertaining performances. The enchantment will not only appeal to children but also nostalgic adults (like me!) and those curious to see what all the hype is about. Those who were doubtful that this film wouldn’t be a patch on the original animation are likely to be pleasantly surprised. For me, it tops the original, it all feels fresh and unforced…..I left on a sugar-rush high!