Beauty and the Beast Review
There's something there that wasn't there before
Disney magic and memories abound in this live-action opposites-attract tale that breathes new life into an animated standard.Disney’s 1991 film Beauty and the Beast is one of those animated classics that people frequently quote, or reference, or discuss or at the very least, remember fondly. It had everything – catchy songs, coming-of-age themes, a redemption story and, most importantly, a talking candelabra with a French accent. It’s been named the greatest animated film of all time and formed a seminal part of many a childhood. The 1991 film is, of course, itself an adaptation. Like many of Disney’s canonical films, it’s heavily based in literature and older film – Beauty and the Beast – a French fairy-tale and also a 1946 French film by Jean Cocteau.
So Disney’s animation, the subsequent stage show, ice show and all the merchandise that came after are all adaptations of an original source. So what does that make this year’s Beauty and the Beast? A remake of an adaptation? Or is it a reboot of a Disney classic? Or is it a separate entity from the 1991 film? Should we ascribe any significance to the original fairy-tale in shaping this live action blockbuster, or is this ‘tale as old as time’ firmly Disney-fied at this point? Whatever the answer, Bill Condon’s film is a beautiful, sweeping musical full of charm that is strongly reminiscent of the 1991 film, but has enough magic to pay homage to the story’s fairy-tale beginnings.
This is a classic fairy tale, a film that asks the audience to suspend their disbelief and dive headfirst into a world of talking household appliances and magical curses that turn people into ogres. And it’s possible – the blend between live-action and computer-generated imagery is almost totally seamless, and the anthropomorphised characters are visually fantastic and voiced so vividly that it’s possible to be totally sucked into the film’s world.
I’m sure most people are fairly familiar with the major plot points of the film – Belle (Emma Watson) ends up a captive in a castle, held by a fearsome beast (Dan Stevens). The villagers (there are always villagers in these sorts of films) are led by Gaston (Luke Evans) a hunter who has it out for the beast, and there are some enchanted objects in the beast’s castle who all have distinct personalities and come to Belle’s aid as she fights Stockholm Syndrome. Or something like that…
This film doesn’t stray much from the 1991 film, and Condon does a fantastic job of blending the live-action with the effects, and stunning visuals and sumptuous colour schemes only enhance the incredible prosthetic and make up work done to achieve the striking Beast. Each of the enchanted household objects is rendered lifelike in a surreal way that feels completely natural in the film – a stellar voice-cast starring the likes of Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson and Ian McKellen are matched perfectly with their on-screen counterparts.
Come for the talking furniture, stay for the gothic set design and be wowed by some brilliant visual effects
Yes, overall it’s a bit saccharine (I bet you’re shocked), but it’s also charming and pretty damn delightful for the most part. It’s a bit chaotic in parts, and there are a lot of characters and a lot of big visuals and a lot of dancing and singing with not much plot. But it’s Beauty and the Beast, through and through. Come for the talking furniture, stay for the gothic set design, fall in love with Emma Watson and be wowed by some brilliant visual effects. There are a few moments of action (a fight scene here, a chase scene there) that feel a bit staid, but that’s pretty forgivable in a reboot.
This is a film that can stand on its own, and if you’ve never seen the 1991 film you won’t find yourself lost or missing any crucial context. While that’s good to see in a new release, it’s also largely because this is basically a glossed-up version of the old film. It’s not bringing anything ground-breaking to the table, but it’s a nice bit of nostalgia and it’s a nice tribute to the Disney ‘renaissance’ period. It’s both new and old and it’s got a lovely mix of classic components and innovative filmmaking that’s becoming a convention of Disney’s live-action reboots, following on from the success of The Jungle Book.
Take the family and everyone will have a nice time. You can’t really go wrong with a film that’s based this heavily on a classic of Disney animation. Visually beautiful, heart-warming and not too overly-sweet, it’s as nice a story about a young girl being held captive by a monster as you’re likely to see all year.
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