Disney serves up another top-notch fairytale with the enchanting new live-action “Beauty and the Beast.” It’s a squeaky clean adaptation to the 1991 animated film, but also too familiar for there to “be something there that wasn’t there before.”
Disney has always reimagined old tales, more recently dusting off stories from its own shelf with “Alice in Wonderland,” “Maleficent,” “Cinderella” and “The Jungle Book” live-action retellings. Each of these adaptations brought new interpretations to the originals, but “Beauty and the Beast” is the first time a live-action version outright reenacts it. Viewers who liked the original will enjoy the 2017 version–because it is essentially the same movie.
It’s unsettling at times to watch the brand new film, as fans can will be able to guess a majority of the lines before they happen. Many scenes are taken straight out of the original, sometimes nearly shot for shot. “Beauty and the Beast” is a impressive film particularly for its ability to pay homage and offer sentimentality to the original. It is incredibly stunning, heartwarming and enjoyable to watch.
Emma Watson plays Belle, a proud feminist and intelligent bookworm. Her singing voice carries sweetly, however, her performance lacks a defining moment to accompany her character’s strength. Dan Stevens as the Beast is a treat, as he brings a sharp wit to the growling prince. The peculiar nature of their relationship is still as present as ever, though this time, they have a bit more in common as their friendship grows into a love story.
The production design is beautiful with breathtaking costumes and sets, though it feels too fantastical for the term “live-action” to apply. Enchanted characters Lumiére, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts and Chip are not as lovable as their cartoons versions due to the constraints of them being stiff objects dancing around the castle instead. However, the all-star voice cast behind them such as Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen and Emma Thompson bring the characters to life.
While for the most part “Beauty and the Beast” plays it safe, the film’s best moments are through its new material. Brand new numbers by Alan Menken, who composed the original “Beauty and the Beast,” along with “The Little Mermaid” and “Aladdin,” are highlights of the film. “How Does a Moment Last Forever,” “Days in the Sun” and “Evermore” are songs that offer refreshing moments that strengthen the characters, helping to redeem the film.
The moments that color outside the lines of the framework of its predecessor are the most memorable. The more dynamic arc found between the duo Gaston and LeFou played by Luke Evans and Josh Gad translates wonderfully to screen. They clearly are having fun with their characters and the “Gaston” sequence is reinvented with their talent. Also, a more complete backstory involving Belle and the Beast’s past offers more insight into their characters.
Undoubtedly, it will be a box-office hit, but it feels like an unnecessary release. Disney clearly felt there wasn’t much else to tell. Overall, revisiting one of Disney’s most treasured movies will be magical for viewers to see on the big screen, if they can settle for watching the same tale as old as 1991.