Well folks, The Mouse has done it yet again. Bill Condon’s (Chicago, Dreamgirls) latest film, a live action adaptation of the 1991 animated classic, Beauty and the Beast, may not be perfect or Oscar-worthy but it certainly is entertaining. The film is also on its way to becoming a box office smash, presumably due to its all-star cast, memorable soundtrack, and dedicated fan base.
For those who aren’t familiar with the 1991 film or the French novel, La Belle et la Bête, Beauty and the Beast tells the story of a young woman named Belle and her desire to escape the provincial life style of her small village. Shortly after her father disappears on a journey to the market, Belle attempts to rescue her father from a dangerous Beast only to find herself taken prisoner in the Beast’s enchanted castle. As time passes, Belle finds herself falling in love with the Beast and the Beast overcomes his own selfish desires in hopes of breaking the spell that has been cast over he and his servants.
The 1991 Oscar-nominated animated film has long been revered as one of the best Disney films of all time, and with good reason. The animated classic is only 85 minutes long but still manages to tell a sweeping romance with heart, humor, and beautiful music. Condon’s take follows in the animated film’s footsteps, however, it does feature new musical numbers, new scenes, and it gives viewers more back story to the film’s leading characters. Many fans might enjoy the new narrative while others may question why anyone would tamper with one of the most critically acclaimed films of the 1990s. I personally enjoyed the film, however, I grew bored with the new storylines and found myself wanting to just revisit the 1991 adaptation.
While the new storylines and musical numbers may not please some fans, the cast certainly will. Much like Hairspray and Les Misérables, Beauty and the Beast is a sweeping musical that features a stellar cast including Emma Watson as Belle, Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) as The Beast, Josh Gad as LeFou, Ewan McGregor as Lumière, Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts, Kevin Kline as Belle’s father, Maurice, and Luke Evans (The Hobbit film series) as Gaston. Each actor shines in their role and they all are surprisingly talented singers given the demanding Alan Menken and Howard Ashman musical score.
While Emma Watson is not a trained singer, her performance as the independent book worm, Belle, and the clever use of auto-tune will fool even the harshest musical theatre critic. Dan Stevens also makes for a wonderful Beast and his rendition of the new song, “Evermore,” is just as beautiful as the soundtrack version performed by Josh Groban.
Disney also tackles new ground by featuring several interracial couples and a gay character in the film. I personally didn’t understand the controversy surrounding the film as the “gay character” is Gaston’s sidekick, LeFou. I believe if the character hadn’t been portrayed by Josh Gad, I do not think the innuendo and nods to homosexuality would have been as apparent. And as far as the interracial couples are concerned, well…isn’t it about time?
In conclusion, Beauty and the Beast will please young and old Disney fans alike. The film is entertaining, wonderfully cast, and visually stunning. However, if you prefer substance over spectacle it may be time to dust off your VCR and revisit the animated classic.