Read the Review by Keith Cheatham
Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme... Disney has been on a role cranking out live action adaptations of their most beloved animated classics. . . With Cinderella and The Jungle Book both earning high praise and top dollar, Disney shows no sign of stopping its newest trend, and thus has led us to one of the most anticipated adaptations of one of their most loved films.
Beauty and the Beast has proven itself as Disney’s most successful live action film, not surprising given the source material, but is its success solely based on nostalgia? Or does this film live up to the original classic? Critics would have you doubt it. While it's Disney biggest success in regard to their new live action adaptations, it is also so far the most poorly received amongst critics earning a 71% on Rotten Tomatoes compared to Cinderella’s 83, and The Jungle Book’s 95. Does this mean Beauty and the Beast is not as good? I argue differently.
Starring Emma Watson as Belle, Dan Stevens as the Beast and Luke Evans as Gaston, the tale as old as time is the same one audiences are very familiar with. In fact, unlike Cinderella and Jungle Book which changed much of the original Disney films narrative to create something different while still telling the same story, Beauty and the Beast follows the original almost beat for beat, and as such has received much more scrutiny for its efforts. Let's remember though that while it follows the same plot outline it does still tell its story in its own way. Characters receive a bit more time to be fleshed out, and a new subplot regarding Belle’s mother is added. All of these new things are minor and take up little screen time, but they do breathe freshness into the story while the actors and director Bill Condone make it their own.
The film starts of much as the original detailing the Beast’s curse, but also offers a reason as to why the villagers have no memory of this random prince that the animated film never touched upon, and in this way other parts of the story are fleshed out as well. The songs are a bit different as to be expected, and while I can say I was worried going in to the changes in their delivery, by the end I felt each participant had made it their own and truly did the original justice while staying true to the new actor’s strengths and talents. Where I find the film is it's most weakest however is in the Beast’s staff. While live action characters such as Belle, Gaston and LaFou and the Beast too are well done and fleshed out, it is Lumiere, played by Ewan McGregor, Cogsworth, played by Ian McKellen, Mrs. Potts, played by Emma Thompson and the other enchanted staff that suffers. It's not that they are poorly performed, Ewan McGregor is charming and Ian Mckellen is perfectly sulky, but at times they feel like filler characters. I appreciate more focus on Gaston and LaFou and fleshing characters out, but it is a shame at the expense of characters we grew to love. They actors are in full form, but at times dialogue in an attempt at humor is cringe worthy, and it seems Condon isn't quite as comfortable directing CGI furniture as he is living things.
Over all Beauty and the Beast is a beautiful film and solidly done. You can tell Bill Condon took great care to recreate each moment and the story, while still being something unique. Some may not care for this new telling, and still may will prefer the original as they should, but this is still a well-crafted adaptation the lives up to the original. I know I will be viewing it more than once. It has some flaws that are minor, but I feel the film is the best live action Disney has yet offered us.
I give Beauty and The Beast 3.5 out of 4 stars.