A Fresh New Look at a Tale as Old as Time

Photo courtesy of Georges Biard, Wikipedia

More than 25 years after Disney graced audiences with one of its most popular animated movies of all time, the studio has brought “Beauty and the Beast” back to the big screen with a live-action remake filled with a fantastic cast, amazing visuals and stellar songs.

Similar to the original, the movie follows Belle (Emma Watson), a young girl who lives with her father Maurice (Kevin Kline) in a small village in France during the 18th century. Seen as an outsider because of her love of reading, Belle is ostracized by many in her community. Only the brawny Gaston (Luke Evans) seeks her company, but Belle denies him her love because Gaston truly loves himself more than anyone else. Belle’s bucolic life is interrupted when her father is locked away in a dark, wintery castle that is inhabited by a cursed and vile beast (Dan Stevens), and Belle makes the choice to take her father’s place and stay locked away in the castle with the Beast.

“Beauty and the Beast” is fantastically filled with great musical performances from everyone in the cast. Audiences will especially love LeFou (Josh Gad) in “Gaston” and Lumiere (Ewan McGregor) in “Be Our Guest.” Gad and McGregor both bring new life to these classic characters and carry the weight through the film’s most memorable songs. It is also worth noting that Stevens’ performance of “Evermore” is truly fantastic and audiences will feel the emotional weight that the song carries. Stevens also delivers a heartfelt performance as the Beast and gives audiences insight into the its awkward, yet caring, personality.

Watson also brings a generic but genuine performance to the character of Belle, highlighting Belle’s individualistic and strong attitude. Watson is also supported by a great cast of voice actors who give life to the new versions of some of the original film’s most popular characters: the talking clock Cogsworth is voiced by Ian McKellan, Mrs. Potts by Emma Thompson and Chip by Nathan Mack.

The film’s enhanced visuals and CGI allow for more realistic visual interpretations of the characters. While it works for characters like Lumiere, who walks and glides across the screen with a more playful and likeable look than in the original, other characters seem too real and audiences may feel weird about these cartoonish characters having realistic faces.

The cartoonish aesthetics spread throughout the otherwise dour movie are also a slight drawback for the film. With the castle having a more realistically dark and gloomy setting, it feels odd that more cartoony characters would exist in this setting. Now while this live-action version of “Beauty and the Beast” brings some new life to a classic tale, its attempts to remain faithful to the 1991 animated classic drag it down. Many characters are meant to feel like carbon copies of the animated version and some moments are not as powerful or surprising because they also happen in the animated version in the exact same way.

So although some viewers may feel unimpressed with the similarities of the new “Beauty and the Beast” to the original, others will appreciate the film’s amazing cast, wonderful and emotional songs and the spectacular takes on classic characters and feel like it stands on its own.