Whilst not perfect, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is a highly enjoyable movie that fully encapsulates the spirit of Disney and the essence of a fairy-tale. Lovers of the animated original (1991) can rest easy with this magical adaption.
Arguably the success of this movie hinged on the casting of Belle, being the most important character and a titan of the Disney Princess pantheon. People were excited and anxious to see Emma Watson’s performance as one of the most famous of all Disney characters.
Emma Watson does a very convincing job as a confident and likable character who is seeking more than a ‘provincial life.’ Her strengths are in playing strong and intelligent characters and this is where the casting really pays off. She immediately reflects the boldness, charm and beauty of Belle. The intelligence and confidence Watson brings to the character, but also the innocence of falling in love for the first time, really adds to the movie and takes away from the sometimes suggested Stockholm Syndrome type relationship Belle has with the Beast.
As the already famous song ‘Belle’ began I had my apprehensions about the quality of Watson’s singing. It did not feel entirely natural at first, and seemed obvious that it had been subject to auto-tuning in various sections. However, I soon forgot this issue. Whether Emma Watson’s singing improved, or I simply got used to her voice, I quickly began to enjoy her singing scenes and by the second act of the movie I was fully convinced by her character and her musical performance.
As for the other titular character of the movie, the Beast was possibly the overall highlight throughout. He was effectively terrifying, intimidating and incredibly loveable throughout and great credit must go to Dan Stevens for his performance in bringing this challenging character to life.
Credit must also go to the creative team behind the Beast. They successfully created a look for the character that is instantly recognisable as, and comparable to, the Beast in the animated original, whilst giving him his own unique, realistic look which suited this live action remake perfectly. There were a few moments where the CGI was not entirely consistent but overall he looked brilliant, and was a superb presence in every scene he was in.
The voice that Stevens chose for the the Beast really made the character. It was gritty and full of emotion whilst also deep and terrifying. In every scene I just wanted to hear the Beast speak to here the powerful voice. It is in the songs though where the brilliance of this voice is best on display. Stevens amazingly sings ‘Evermore’ full of emotion and character whilst maintaining the Beast voice. It was an incredibly powerful and touching singing performance, and one of the highlights of the movie.
I went in having doubts about Gaston, fully believing that they should have cast an actor of a bigger physical stature than Luke Evans to more accurately portray the villain of the animated movie. A towering figure, I was expecting a larger actor to be able to stand up to the huge presence of the Beast in the significant castle roof top battle scene.
However, Luke Evans brilliant acting made the character and it was in his singing that really won me over. Evans has an unbelievable theatrical singing voice which suited Gaston superbly, reflecting both the power and arrogance of the character. Despite my reservations, Evans makes Gaston one of the best elements of the movie. The songs ‘Gaston’ and ‘The Mob Sing’ are brilliantly boasting and tension filled respectively, whilst the roof top battle scene- despite the majority of people knowing how the story ends- is a suspenseful and heart stopping moment.
The rest of the supporting cast really add to the film and the important roles of Lumiere and Cogsworth were cast well. Once you get past the shock of Lumiere having legs, Ewan McGregor’s character is incredibly likeable. He brings a charm and positivity to the character, and his love and pursuit of Plumette only add to his appeal. Unfortunately, his French accent is questionable throughout the movie, but his charm almost makes up for this.
Ian McKellen is wonderful as Cogsworth, and the rest of the furniture cast, including Emma Thompson’s Mrs Potts, add to the magic of the film. Josh Gad’s Le Fou was a great source of comedy for the character. His motivations for working with Gaston are more clearly laid out in this movie than the animated original making him far less two dimensional, with his adoration for his boss being clear.
Before seeing this movie I had expected the scenes involving Le Fou’s sexuality to be far more significant and less subtle, due to the ridiculous reactions of countries such as Russia and Malaysia. The scenes over this topic however are not attention grabbing and instead successfully add to the character of Le Fou, his relationship with Gaston and the movie as a whole.
Disney make a few additions to the classic story, the most significant being the background to Belle’s mother and the reason for Maurice moving with his daughter away from Paris to the ‘small provincial town’ we see in the movie. This addition works surprisingly well. It provides the movie with additional emotional scenes between Emma Watson and her father, played brilliantly by Kevin Kline, and most significantly, between Belle and the Beast and contributes to the growing relationship and emotional bond between the characters.
Overall, Beauty and the Beast (2017) is a truly magical entry into the Disney live action film catalogue. Any fan of the original animated feature, and any fan of Disney movies, will enjoy this film. It is full of fun, charm and emotion. Out of the current live Disney remakes so far (Malificent, 2014, Cinderella, 2015, The Jungle Book, 2016, Beauty and the Beast, 2017) the privileged title of best movie still goes to the incredible The Jungle Book. However, this Beauty and the Beast adaption best captures the essence of Disney magic and it leaves with me eager anticipation for what Disney next has to offer.
4/5 Must Watch
Image- Disney http://movies.disney.co.uk/beauty-and-the-beast-2017
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