Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: A favorite film makes the live action transition beautifully
Cons: A couple of very brief moments I wish weren’t there
The Bottom Line:
Live action version
Remakes animated one
Captures its magic
Stunning. Simply Stunning.
The first time I saw the Broadway production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, I was ready for someone to create a live action version of the musical that I could enjoy any time I wanted. While that’s not quite what we got with this 2017 live action version of Beauty and the Beast, I am still very happy with the outcome.
If you are familiar with the fairy tale and especially Disney’s 1991 animated version, you know the basics of this story. It tells the story of a spoiled prince (Dan Stevens) who, when he turns down sheltering a hag who shows up on the doorstep during a storm, is turned into a hideous beast. His household servants are also cursed along with him. He has until a magical rose fades to learn to love and get that person to love him or he will be a beast forever.
Meanwhile, in a nearby village, we meet Belle (Emma Watson). She is considered odd by everyone in the village, and yet Gaston (Luke Evans) still has decided she is the girl he is going to marry. However, when Belle’s father (Kevin Kline) is captured by the Beast, it sets in motion a series of events that just might change everyone’s lives.
Make no mistake about it – this is a remake. Unlike some of Disney’s other recent live action movies that tell the story from a slightly different point of view or offer a twist, there is very little here you haven’t already scene. The biggest change is we learn some about what happened to Belle’s mother and why she is no longer in the picture. It does help flesh out her father’s character, but I’m not sure we needed it. There are a few other tweaks here or there, at least one of which pulls this version closer to the original fairy tale, but they are minor overall.
Not that this is a bad thing. I love the original movie for a reason, and they have captured the characters, their relationships, and the story that changes them perfectly. While a few favorite lines have been cut, others have been included, and I loved them just as much here.
All the songs you love from the animated version are present as well. These sequences are still show stoppers that are a pure delight. I was smiling through all of them. It’s certainly interesting watching someone else put their spin on the familiar lines.
As I hinted at earlier, they did not include the songs from the Broadway version of the story. I was a bit surprised that this included “Human Again” since that song was originally written for the animated movie. I certainly missed “Home,” although they include the music from this song the first time that Belle sees her room in the castle. The biggest loss is “Me,” the song that Gaston sings in the play when he proposes to Belle. Seriously, that song is so hilarious I would have loved to see it here although I’m not quite sure it fit the tone of this movie.
Instead of those songs, we get several new songs here. Honestly, they are all forgettable and don’t really add much to the story. The one exception to that is “Evermore,” the song that Beast sings after he lets Belle go. It is powerful and powerfully executed by Dan Stevens.
Speaking of actors, the cast is wonderful. Yes, most of the main cast are once again voice actors since the various objects in the castle were done by CGI. Emma Watson’s background in the Harry Potter movies served her in good stead here since she knows how to act believably against an object that isn’t yet there. The voice cast includes such actors as Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Audra McDonald, and Stanley Tucci.
And the CGI, including much of the Beast, is just as wonderfully done. I never doubted what I was seeing for a moment. From the previews, I thought the objects might look very odd, but they didn’t really. In fact, I quite liked how they were done.
I do want to take a moment to address the controversy surrounding this version of the story. There are two moments near the end of the film that have become very controversial. In one, a male reacts positively to the new female costume he’s been given by the wardrobe during the big fight in the castle. In another, Lefou (the wonderful Josh Gad) winds up with a male partner during the final dance and neither seem to mind. There are reportedly one or two others, but even knowing that I missed them. Combined, these two moments are probably 30 seconds of the two hour running time. This is not the first time that moments like these have been put into family movies, even Disney movies (take another look at Enchanted back in 2007 for an early one that stands out in my mind). Do I wish they weren’t there? Absolutely! Still, I will not tell anyone this bothers to see the film or to avoid the film. I am only providing information and my opinion on it.
With the exception of the two songs from the play I wish were included, I couldn’t be happier with this version of Beauty and the Beast. I will be adding it to my collection as soon as it is released and look forward to enjoying it many more times. Will it replace the animated version? No. But it will be a nice compliment when I want to see this story.