Despite the fact that Disney had released iconic films throughout the last century such as, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, 101 Dalmatians, and The Little Mermaid, none of those films had received an Academy Award nomination recognizing the film for its achievements outside of song, with Walt Disney himself receiving a special award for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. 1991 was a turning point in the history of Disney’s historic line of animated films.
It all changed with Beauty and the Beast when it became not only Walt Disney’s first animated Best Picture nominee, but the first animated film to ever receive a nomination for Best Picture. While the film did not win the award, it opened the possibilities for animated films to not only be great but receive recognition by the Academy. 26 years later, Disney has brought back the masterpiece that is Beauty and the Beast, only this time in the live-action form.
Following the same premise of the original, Beauty and the Beast follows Belle (Emma Watson), who is taken prisoner by a beast (Dan Stevens) in his castle, taking the place of her father, Maurice (Kevin Kline). She eventually befriends the castle’s enchanted staff of Chip, Mrs. Potts, Lumiere, Cogsworth, Cadenza, Madame De Garderobe, and Plumette. Belle eventually learns to look beyond the beast’s exterior, allowing her to recognize his now kind heart and soul, which leads to her falling in love with him.
Despite the film following the animated original’s premise regarding Belle and Beast’s relationship, this re-telling adds origin stories to the transformation of the Beast and whereabouts of Belle’s mother. The new origins add to the depth of the beast’s despair and a better understanding as to why he is so angry and full of sorrow, outside of the known fact that he is no longer a man but a beast. Belle’s mother’s origin is a sad but fitting explanation as to how she passed and as to why she was never a focal point in the animated film.
Emma Watson was the perfect choice for Belle as she is relatable and sympathetic. She brings the animated Belle to life and it was a joy to see every scene she is in throughout the film. To my surprise, Watson has some pipes as well. Watson’s voice is clear, crisp, and on point and a tribute to the animated version and the songs we all fell in love with. Dan Stevens does a great job in his portrayal as the Beast and is able to express his sadness and anger throughout the film with his facial expressions. Aided with the strong chemistry between Watson and Stevens, the relationship between Beast and Belle is one of the brightest spots in the film.
Luke Evan’s take on Gaston is the best in show. He brings out the arrogance and narcissistic personalty of Gaston that is at times hard to hate. As a pro wrestling fan, Evan’s portrayal of Gaston reminds me of an old fashioned 1980’s heel who was so good at his job of being bad that he became endearing to fans of sports entertainment. Along with Evan’s performance, all of the enchanted items from Beast’s castle are entertaining and bring out the magic Disney is known for.
While all the songs we knew from the original are great and fitting, “Be Our Guest” stands out as the finest in this film. Shot for shot, it resembles the animated film closely and shows what CGI can achieve and I commend the vocal performances during this scene.
However, not everything is rainbows and butterflies in this film. While the songs from the original fit in nicely and were performed well, the film added new songs to the film that to me just did not hit well. The additions of these songs added an extra 10-15 minutes the film, extra length that was not necessary. In an attempt to create new memorable songs to remember, it fell flat and eventually did nothing more than extend a film that would have been best fit at an hour and 45 minutes long.
Finally, we get to the elephant in the room and the controversy regarding Disney’s first gay character, Le Fou. While there is some hinting that Le Fou may be gay, there is nothing breathtakingly obvious outside of less than a second shot towards the film’s conclusion. While I am all for Disney’s gay representation in film, they should go out and create a new character instead of taking an established character and calling him/her gay because it seems like the thing to do in 2017. Josh Gad plays Josh Gad in this role, and for about 75 percent of the time, he comes off extremely irritating and annoying and doesn’t add much as Le Fou.
You can add Beauty and the Beast to the list of well made Disney live-action remakes. While not better than the 1991 original, it is a nice representation of one of the greatest animated films ever made and more evidence that Disney can do no wrong.