It’s a tale as old as time… a song as old as rhyme. Disney once again invites audiences to “be our guest” with a live action remake of arguably one of the best Disney films of all time- Beauty and the Beast. With a great cast and a great story, were they able to pull off this story? This review will have minor spoilers.
The story remains the same as the original 1991 film, now directed by . Belle (Emma Watson) , a bright young woman in a small provincial town, finds herself trading her life for her father’s and living with a Beast (Dan Stevens) and his other cursed servants, Cogsworth (Ian McKellan), Lumière (Ewan McGregor), and Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson), and many others. They begin as opposites, until something begins to bloom between the two.
Beauty and the Beast is just one in an ever-growing slate of Disney live action films. Some have been mostly successful, like Cinderella and The Jungle Book and some have not, like Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent. Beauty and the Beast for me, falls in the former category. This is a gorgeous film that revisits a much beloved classic.
To begin, the film’s production design and casting were impressive. The entire opening scene was just a visual treat for the eyes, and continued throughout the film. There were so many intricate details in the costumes and the sets that it was impossible to look at everything. I noticed a nod to French style in the costumes that helped to give Beauty and the Beast a distinctive feel.
When Disney released the casting for the film, I was excited. Each actor really seemed to fit the part and it showed. They took on the iconic characters we know and love and put their twist on it. Emma Watson, best known as Hermione Granger from Harry Potter, was honestly the perfect choice for Belle. She took the original Belle’s wit and kindness and brought a modern edge to it. The tweaks she did to the character enhanced her for the better and made me love Belle even more. Another favorite of mine was Gaston and Lefou. Played by Luke Evans and Josh Gad, respectively. These two were often the comedic blood of the film. They would bounce off each other extremely well and would generate the most laughs.
For me, Beauty and the Beast was at its best when it stuck with the original material and still felt natural to its own film. As mentioned before, the actors did this extremely well with their characters and it helped the story, especially the friendship between Belle and the Beast. While the transformation of their relationship did a complete 180 within 5 minutes, they tried to remedy this by creating an organic flow by delving more into their friendship. I enjoyed seeing the two come together over a mutual love of reading. It was sweet seeing the Beast roll his eyes at Belle’s choice of books, but later get caught reading of her own favorite stories. It made the payoff of the finale rewarding.
Another example of this effective blending were the songs. The original soundtrack is amazing, each song great in their own way. This version was no different, the songs were incredibly fun and kept with the original film, even introducing some new songs. Alan Menken returns as the composer and songwriter, and he slaps a fresh coat of paint on to the now 26 year-old songs. This includes some altered lyrics and new arrangements for the new actors. Yet it helped to breathe new life into the songs, much like Belle breathing new life into the castle. My personal favorites were “Be Our Guest” and “Gaston”, although every song was great.
My only problems with the film centered around some of the deviations from the original. Most of them were hit or miss. The film clearly wanted to avoid being a complete shot-by-shot remake of the animated version, but would constantly slide back into this idea. Certain attempts to explain elements of the character’s stories would fall flat. The changes that were the most impactful to me were the smaller ones. I did enjoy the one change of Maurice finding a rose for Belle at the castle. The return to the original fairytale was refreshing.
This film is not a perfect remake, but what remake really is? It is difficult to straddle the line between total originality and slaving to the original. For Beauty and the Beast, it was mostly successful, tripping at a few altered scenes. If you are looking for an entertaining and nostalgic time, Beauty and the Beast invites you to ‘be our guest’. I believe you should answer that invitation. Beauty and the Beast gets a B+.
Thank you all for reading! Have you seen the new Beauty and the Beast? What were your thoughts? Are there any other Disney remakes you liked? Let me know in the comments below!