I’ve never actually seen the original version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, regardless there’s nothing particularly novel about the story itself. At its core it’s a ‘tale as old as time’ – two people, who despise each other when they meet, end up falling in love and live happily ever after. Nothing new or novel. But you don’t view a Disney film for an intricately crafted plot, you watch it for that floaty Disney experience and its broad uplifting themes. This film excels in both of those arenas.
This live action version of Beauty and the Beast is a rich visual treat that seamlessly blends Belle’s reality with the Beast’s fantastical world. Working in tandem with Alan Menken’s moving memorable score and Tim Rice’s witty lyrics, your eyes delve deep into the rich tones of the visuals, fully transporting you to a miraculous world of bewitched roses, talking candlesticks, spy-cam mirrors and super clever horses!
But it’s not all style, like most Disney films, Beauty and the Beast provides some more serious undertones that deliver succinct moral messages for a younger viewer. Belle is a bookish feminist throughout – though at times it’s to the film’s detriment, Emma Watson’s Belle definitely seems more in love with the library than the Beast himself. We learn that there’s more to love than looks, that it comes in all forms.
In terms of cast, Emma Watson is a bit of an awkward Belle. Aside from the fact that her vocals are clearly auto tuned to oblivion, she lacks sincerity in everything she says. Dan Evans is a great CGI-ed up beast but the CGI surely adds to the lack of on screen connection between the film’s two main protagonists. Luke Evans and Josh Gad bring to life the comedic duo of Gaston and Le Fou with great gusto, but it’s the likes of Ewan McGreggor, Emma Thompson & Ian Mckellen as walking, talking, fighting castle furniture that really steals the show. Indeed the number ‘Be Our Guest’ (as the furniture serves Belle a magnificent supper) is a bright, bold, rapturous highlight full of the Disney magic you watched the film for in the first place.
Overall, Beauty and the Beast isn’t groundbreaking stuff but this incarnation is a deluxe, compelling watch that more than justifies its creation. Any film that contains Audra McDonald as a soprano singing wardrobe is worth a watch. I give Beauty and the Beast a rating of 3.5/5.
Beauty and the Beast is now available on DVD/Blu-Ray*!