If you haven’t seen the original Beauty and the Beast before, you’re missing out on one of the greatest, most whimsical animated films of all time. It was an era of brilliance for Disney, striking gold year after year with Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, The Lion King and Pocahontas, amongst others. Beauty and the Beast fit right in, the live action adaption taking on the same plot. It tells the tale of a young farm girl named Belle (Emma Watson), who’s somewhat of a social outcast in her town, her nose always buried in a book. A dashing, self obsessed war hero named Gaston (Luke Evans) is after her hand in marriage, accompanied by his slapstick and affectionate sidekick LeFou (Josh Gad), but Belle is far from interested, for true love is one of the last things on her mind.
While the narrative helms close to the animated classic, the key plot points remaining the same, the narrative beats are expanded out; crafting a familiar, yet fresh take on this timeless love story. Their romance is just as dazzling and charming as ever, the characters so rich with life and likeability, full of charisma and larger than life personalities. Their live action interpretations admirably bring justice to who these characters are, often with more expansive backstories. The characters here, for better or for worse, feel better realised than in the original. Each of them receives a little more characterization, whether it’s through their motives or career or pre-cursed lifestyle, and the actors performing them do a stupendous job.
Beauty and the Beast’s cast list is extensive, the acting talents ranging from the likes of Emma Thompson to Josh Gad to Ian McKellen. Everyone has a part to play, whether it be a smaller role such as Stanley Tucci’s Maestro Cadenza, a character who only ever appeared in the direct to DVD animated sequel Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas, or Ewan McGregor’s show-stealing Lumière, who’s just as great as ever. McGregor and McKellen share a large amount of screen time, and every single minute they share is sublime, often turning in some of the funniest, most endearing moments this film has to offer. The entire supporting cast does a surprisingly great job at bringing in genuine, heartfelt emotion, especially during the film’s flooring finale, a sequence that had me on the brink of tears.
While many Disney classics are known for their catchy scores and musical numbers, Beauty and the Beast is, perhaps, one of the better-known ones. The musical sequences are to die for. Each one receives a little bit of a change up in comparison to the original, making this experience all the more worthwhile, and the new songs made directly for this movie fit right in. Even The Beast receives a solo song this time around, a welcomed addition that showcases a little bit more of his inner turmoil and romantic frustration. One of the biggest surprises was Josh Gad and Luke Evan’s ‘Gaston’ song, an expertly choreographed and wonderfully ridiculous take on the song that brought with it countless laughs.
Before having seen the film, director Bill Condon seemed to be a strange choice for taking on this project. On the one hand, he’s the writer behind Chicago and writer-director behind Dreamgirls, so he’s got a background in cinematic musicals. But on the other hand, this is the man who’s also directed two Twilight movies and the dreadfully boring Fifth Estate, so he could really go either way. Condon’s work as a director is admirable. The sets are big and clearly a set, never looking too authentic, but the performance’s he’s able to get from his actors make them feel real. One of his weakest links is through the cinematography and editing, unable to capture the scope and feel of this dashing epic. Tobias A. Schliessler’s camera work is frequently bland, sadly never doing the visuals the justice they deserve.
I wanted to go this whole review without mentioning the controversy behind LeFou’s character. I really did. But the simple fact of the matter is, if you’re attempting to boycott this movie because you think Disney is trying to shove a gay agenda down you’re throat, you’re doing nothing more than missing out on an absolutely wonderful movie. This film is going to make billions. It’s a gleeful, dazzling movie experience that pays respect to its source material and will have you singing and dancing for years to come.
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