An adaptation of the Disney fairy tale about a monstrous-looking prince and a young woman who fall in love.
Disney continue their recent spree of adapting their classic animations into live action spectacles, with the advance of technology and motion capture at such a level that the effects can blend almost seamlessly into the action (let’s just say it’s a far cry from the live action/animation combo’s of the likes of the original ‘Pete’s Dragon’, as charming as that style can be!). ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is next up for that treatment, and I was both a little nervous and excited to see what could be done with my favourite Disney film, and in my humble opinion, the finest encapsulation of what makes the best Disney movies such powerful storytelling vehicles. The titular song talks about ‘a tale as old as time’ and whilst Disney’s 1991 animation will be most people’s introduction to the original story from 1740, it’s a story most of us will know by now so I’ll skip the synopsis and get straight into how it measures up. From here on this will include some minor spoilers, so stop reading now if you don’t know the story
For the most part, I thought ‘Beauty and the Beast’ was a really enjoyable movie, following the same path as the 1991 film whilst expanding some elements and adding in a few nice diversions to avoid it feeling like a play by play. It doesn’t need to be as long and there are elements where you can feel Bill Condon is indulging a little too much in the wonderful technology at his disposal, namely in the concluding attack on the castle from the villagers, where bigger is certainly not better as an array of effects and CGI are thrown at the screen. It’s in the little moments when Condon’s version shines and when it leans into the heart that made the original so wonderful it really worked for me, and I thought it expanded on the relationship between Belle and the Beast effectively. The musical numbers are well staged and well sung, and the casting is basically perfect for all of the roles. I thought Emma Watson was good and she has a lovely singing voice, and the various characters in the castle are great (even accepting a couple of minor quibbles with Ewan McGregor’s French accent and Emma Thompson’s cockney singing voice!). The show is stolen by Luke Evans as Gaston though, perfectly capturing the boorishness and misplaced charm of the arrogant oaf, and dare I say it, Josh Gad is great as his sidekick Le Fou.
I liked ‘Beauty and the Beast’ a lot more than I expected too, and whilst I can’t see myself returning to this version ahead of the animation, it was an enjoyable and well made cinematic experience that managed to recapture the magic of the original tale, and I’d recommend it.
Directed By: Bill Condon
Starring: Emma Watson, Luke Evans, Dan Stevens, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Ian McKellan, Emma Thompson, Audra McDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nathan Mack, Adrian Schiller and Hattie Morahan