Reviews: Disney goes live action with Beauty and the Beast
Beauty and the Beast,
Directed by Bill Condon,
Starring Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline, Hattie Morahan, Haydn Gwynne
The classic tale of love conquering all comes to the big screen again, this time in a live action spectacular from Disney. A prince, who is so self-absorbed that he offends a enchantress, is cursed to live as a hideous beast, his castle and the staff that work there are all affected with the same curse. When a man is caught stealing a rose from the grounds of the castle he is taken prisoner until his head-strong daughter trades places with him. Can Belle tame the Beast?
When I heard that Disney were going to start making live action versions of their properties I thought that it was just another ‘Money for Old Rope’ gimmick by the House of the Mouse, wringing out more from existing tales. We’ve seen these before with the tedious sequels that they’ve done over the last twenty to thirty years. I remember the Family Guy spoof of ‘Jafar may need glasses’. But I can honestly say that I was wrong, so wrong I’m wearing my Wrong Pants today (not to be confused with The Wrong Trousers, which as Wallace & Gromit showed is something else again), and they are proving to be ever so itchy. Cinderella and The Jungle Book proved themselves to be some fantastic entertainment. What gets you are the small details that other companies would overlook but for Disney that isn’t an option.
You all know the tale, and here Dan Stevens and Emma Watson take the title roles and create something purely magical. Ewan McGregor, Sir Ian McKellen, Stanley Tucci, Emma Thompson, and Nathan Mack play the servants who are turned into household objects, and give us the warm welcome that only they can. Kevin Kline plays Belle’s dad and it’s nice to see him have something to do in a role; a lot of people love him from A Fish Called Wanda, but for me he is Dave through and through. Luke Evans should be arrested though, as he steals the whole movie with his performance of Gaston, the self involved wannabe husband of Belle, but obviously she’s having none of it. Josh Gad plays LeFou, Gaston’s hanger on, and just nails the character so perfectly that it’s a full on snuggle of a character.
The production values are high, as you’d expect, except for the computer generated Beast (surprising for a company founded on excellent animation quality). I had some problems with the animation of him and there were one or two moments where his size changed dramatically. Other than that it’s just amazing what the film has done. The village of Belle was created fully so that the opening musical number flows unlike any recent musical. The film gets dark in places, so young children will probably have a few scary moments to face. Don’t worry though it won’t be long until you are singing along with Be Our Guest, or Gaston’s Song.
Beauty and The Beast is the best Disney live-action recreation to date, although coming in close to The Jungle Book last year. The animated version of Beauty and The Beast I can take or leave, much to the anger of my partner, as it’s her fave Disney movie, but I’ll watch this live action time and time again without hesitation. Most of that goes down to Luke Evans who is just pitch perfect and so horrendous that his Gaston is instantly loveable, in a strange way. My partner came along to the screening with me and now Beauty and The Beast live-action is one of her favourite live-action films, she cried through the whole thing with that huge dopey smile on her face.
While one or two small annoying niggles will live with me for this film, I have to say I couldn’t be happier on leaving the cinema. Mulan and The Lion King live-action versions can’t come quick enough now. The Tale as Old as Time continues to age perfectly.