Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is the live-action retelling of their 1991 animated classic of the same name.
The plot is as Disney as Disney films get: A Prince (played by Dan Stevens) is cursed by an enchantress and turned into a hideous creature – now only known as Beast. Years later, an inventor named Maurice (Kevin Kline) is stranded by Beast’s castle. Before Maurice leaves, he walks past the garden where he picks a rose for his daughter Belle (Emma Watson). Beast jails Maurice in his dungeon for being a thief. (It’s a bit of an overreaction, but he is a beast after all). In search of her missing father, Belle stumbles upon the hidden castle and finds her father being held captive. Belle bravely switches place with her father and is now stuck living with Beast until eternity.
Meanwhile, Maurice tells the tale of his encounter with the Beast and Belle’s captivity back in the village. In hopes of winning Belle’s affection, Gaston (Luke Evans) gathers an angry mob to defeat beast and rescue her from captivity.
If there is a flaw, it’s Beauty and the Beast being an exact retelling of the original. There isn’t much variation from the animated film. A lot has been made of Josh Gad’s character LeFou being gay. The character is so understated and underdeveloped; audiences wouldn’t have noticed if someone hadn’t mentioned it. That’s the only noticeable change.
The movie showcases the same classic songs are they’re even better when they’re performed in live action. The “Be Our Guest” performance with Belle, Lumiere and Co. is fantastic. The sequence is enjoyable and has the same feel as the performances in the animated film. It’s as close to an animated scene as you can get in a live action film.
Emma Watson is fine as Belle. She doesn’t have any scenes that will blow audiences away, at the same time she doesn’t ruin the film. Dan Stevens is great as Beast. His version of Beast is less of an angry outcast and more of a man who is isolated from everyone else and has forgotten how to live with other people.
The star of the film is Luke Evans as Gaston. Over the years we’ve seen Gaston as a villain. Evans gives him a few more layers. His Gaston is proud. He’s also a buffoon, overconfident, narcissistic, and a really villainous when it matters. You understand why women in the village would faint over Gaston and also why Belle would want nothing to do with him.
The retelling opened an opportunity for Disney to flush out Belle’s character and tell and interesting story about empowerment, but they dodge it. Belle is essentially a chess piece that’s moved around the board to get to the final act where she falls in love. As much as we love stories of empowerment, fairy tales are about falling in love.
Beauty and the Beast is an excellent remake. The music has a way of making you sing along, even if you don’t plan to. There are some very well done credits after the film is over. They’re well worth staying in your seats to watch. Even with it being a step-by-step remake, it’s a wonderfully nostalgic trip through childhood – and that’s a great thing.