Enchanting, dazzling and full of charm, Beauty and the Beast magnificently presents the classic from 1991 in a visual marvel full of intricate detailing which seamlessly transports its audience to an early 18th century flamboyant France with face painting, wigs and all as seen swirling in the opening scene.
Disney’s latest addition to its live-action collection captures the delightful magical atmosphere and the basic narrative from the animated version, while at the same time sensationally fleshing out its characters adding emotional back stories which allow them to blossom in this film and enforce that sentimental bond fans of the hand-drawn film already have with all the charismatic characters.
Director, Bill Condon, brings the world of Beauty and the Beast to life with wonderful bold production, stylistic backdrops, rich motion-capture and old-fashioned musical artistry. Condon has expanded from the original animated framework and added elements which incorporate fresh material that make this movie stand out on its own without undermining or veering away from the original classic.
Condon sets out the magic kingdom of the Beast’s castle in seamless glamour and exquisite wonder that is simply mesmerising- a fitting sentiment to the royal undertone of the decadent palace and its occupants.
Beauty and the Beast Plot
The film follows the same loved story as it’s animated predecessor; where a self-absorbed and narcissistic French prince (Dan Stevens) turns away an old woman seeking shelter- unknowing that she is in fact an enchantress. As punishment for his arrogance and unkindness she casts a spell, transforming the castle’s servants into household implements, erasing the castle from villagers’ memories and turning the prince into the reflection of his character- a Beast.
Years later, in the nearby village, Maurice (Kevin Kline), an artist, lives with his daughter, Belle (Emma Watson)- a gritty young outspoken woman seen as an outcast by the traditional villagers. Maurice inadvertently stumbles upon the Beast’s castle where he winds up being taken prisoner, for plucking a rose, forcing Belle to come after him and takes the place of her father as the Beast’s prisoner.
The castle’s enchanted staff encourage a romance between the two, hoping that the spell on the castle can be broken before the final petal on the enchanted rose falls. Despite the Beast’s initial rudeness and hostile behaviour, Belle begins to realise a kinder and caring side to her captor and they form a bond. However, in the meantime Maurice is back in the village desperately seeking help to rescue his daughter from the village hero, Gaston (Luke Evans) who sees an opportunity to seize Belle as his wife. Gaston seeks out the Beast as a prize, after locking up Belle and Maurice, and leads a mob of villagers on a siege of the enchanted castle for a show-down with the Beast.
Changes from the Original
This film smoothly embraces change without corrupting the original story and cleverly expands to develop the larger story. Notable differences hit out right from the opening scene, a new prologue- a colourful soiree embedded with a powerful musical number and a synchronised French aristocratic dance sequence that is pleasing to the eye.
Belle is an inventor eager to show off her progressive thinking in a traditional town with an underlining subplot where she learns about her mother and her death. Maurice is an artist and Gaston is a former military captain which gives the character a bit more substance than just the budding huntsman portrayed in the animated tale. The changes impact the narrative in subtle ways but ultimately stay true and easily slot together in the same way to the story that is already loved.
The film fundamentally follows the blueprint set in the original in its plot sequences, excitingly for the animated fans, although tweaked for live-action film-making they are visually-spectacular and the mind blowing psychedelic colour rave in the iconic ‘Be Our Guest’ explodes with wow-factor and is the centre piece of the film.
Cast & Music
The acting calibre, star studded to say the least, in this film is sublime with outstanding performances all round that are left to be marvelled at. Emma Watson, is beautifully cast as Belle and immediately delights with her opening number. Her voice is innocent and sweet - worthy of the beauty she is playing and her portrayal is gritty and strong which awards Belle the aura of more heroine than just Disney-damsel presenting a distinguishable version of the character with a perfect combination of honesty and strength.
As the bellowing Beast, Dan Stevens is impressive and his emotional performance in motion-capture is effortless, bringing about a charm and intellect to the creature with giant horns full of indignation whilst still clearly portraying the element of a wounded soul beneath the surface. Luke Evans delivers an enjoyable performance as the self-involved, masculine Gaston and showcases his incredible singing ability thoroughly rounding off a credible antagonist seeking the hand of Belle, even if forcefully attempted.
Some of the supporting roles deserve distinction; to start, Ewan McGregor voicing the charismatic Lumiere, the ring leader of the crockery, notably delivers excellently in the iconic ‘Be Our Guest’ musical number. Emma Thompson is a treat as Mrs. Potts and her musical performance is fantastic. It is Josh Gad, as a more fleshed out LeFou, that in particular is outstanding, adding some great lines and his humorous admiration for Gaston is perfectly timed in their double act show.
The heart of the movie, as is in the animated version, is the musical score which is exquisite, and this is down to Bill Condon bringing back the same man that was involved in the original, Alan Menken. Menken has brought the magic of the original composed songs and teamed up with lyrical genius, Tim Rice, to bring new songs that will have a few sing-a-longs on the car ride home after the credits roll. The songs help build the characters adding and allow the impressive cast to show off their vocal capabilities.
This live-action version of the classic tale of Beauty and the Beast oozes extravagance and Condon has struck gold with the richness this film possesses. The outstanding cinematic splendour that explodes on screen with an old-fashioned feel is made only better by the westend-esque musical performances by the film’s superb cast.
The traditional Disney romantic focus has gained substance with the addition of mutual loss and that subtle understanding that underlines the two title characters’ connection. It is a worthy remake of a Disney classic titan that will please not only die-hard Disney fans but also those film-goers seeing this love story for the first time.
A great film to see which pays homage to an epic love story reinforcing the tale as old as time forever within our hearts.
Photo Credit - Youtube /Disney Movie Trailers