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The beauty of animation films is how magical they can feel because of they imagination they inspire. To bring something like that to life is challenging. Matching music and atmosphere and most importantly, that special chemistry that we can feel within these characters, which is usually something easier to believe when its animation than when done in live-action With the 1991 Disney original so beautiful and magical to begin with, it is hard to go into this year’s Beauty and the Beast without being slightly–yet optimistically–skeptical. It’s difficult not to compare and honestly, unfortunately, they don’t. The main reason being that this new adaptation takes the predictable formula, replicating its original, but not quite living up to that magic the animation creates, even if it does dive more into elaborating on the main character’s back story and making it more dark than colorful.
Beauty and the Beast’s best quality is how it creates its atmosphere and the world. It is absolutely gorgeous. The effects and CGI put us right into the setting of the town and especially the wintery castle and forest areas. There is a darker tone however, and fortunately, it does manage to capture a special part of the enchantment that made the first one so great. Of course, the original animated film offered up some of the most beautiful animation to date, with its rich colors and fluid style, punctuated by its catchy musical tunes, which brings us to the second part that helps gives this new movie something more. While retaining a lot of the same music from the original, it adds a few new songs as well. However, the nostalgia of the old tunes keep them the best bits of the movie. Another commendable aspect is the film’s determination at creating an experience that stays true to the musical themes and utilizes very little actual dialogue.
Belle (Emma Watson) is a very complex Disney princess, mostly because in her small town girl way, is quite the heroine and shows a brave and courageous side. To be honest, Watson gives a decent performance. She fits the part mostly well, and she has a good singing voice and helps the movie’s overall appeal and ambitions in taking the audience’s breath away. Still, while it isn’t a bad performance, it somehow lacks that memorable aspect. However, her chemistry with the Beast (Dan Stevens) works well and propels the story in a way that made it easy to fall in love with their story once again, even knowing what would happen, always tugging at our heartstrings. Steven’s face is CGI for a majority of the film and yet perhaps it is because of that, it is easier to keep it imaginative. When he is angry at the beginning, there are moments of fear and later as he softens, his features also make it so much more gentle. There is much to love in how Stevens portrays the Beast, as there is great development in the character.
Other stars as well in dynamic characters help in supporting the enchantment. Who knew that clocks and candelabras and teapots could make us fall in love with them over and over again? The voice cast is a fantastic ensemble with Cogsworth voiced by Ian McKellan, Lumiere by Ewan McGregor, Mrs. Potts by Emma Thompson and of course, the man who tends to sneak into many movies in great supporting roles, playing the grand piano, Maestro, Stanley Tucci. They truly bring these characters to life with enthusiastic performances.
Finally, the most self-absorbed villain in the Disney-verse has to go to Gaston (Luke Evans). There is a lot to love in what Evans does with Gaston. He’s comedic and engaging and while the ending battle with the Beast is a little underwhelming, it was never meant to be overly long (even in the original). Gaston is never really a true threat and works best in the more humorous sequences, such as his performance in the bar paired with his right hand man, Lefou (Josh Gad), who delivers a rather lackluster performance.
Overall, Beauty and the Beast is a decent live action take of the original. In comparison, it is hard to meet the original’s masterful animation, however there is still a lot to love, especially because this one takes good care in creating a beautiful environment and magical atmosphere. The winter and snowy landscape with the dark but beautiful castle captures a lot of the mysticism, especially watching the take on the castle falling apart as the magic wears away from each rose petal falling. While some characters are a little underwhelming in their portrayal, the majority did a pretty great job in bringing both magic, chemistry and comedy. Beauty and the Beast shows that the sum of its parts creates the magic of the story itself, and this overshadows its shortcomings.
Movie description: Beauty and the Beast is a 2017 live-action remake of the Disney animated film about a beautiful young woman and beastly prince who fall in love.
Director(s): Bill Condon
Actor(s): Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad
Genre: Fantasy, Musical