Following the current trend of Disney live-action remakes, the latest edition now hits theaters all over the world: “Beauty and the Beast” (2017). A tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme, the film follows the all-too familiar story of the beautiful and adventurous Belle and the cursed Beast falling in love. Set in a magical castle in the idyllic French country side and surrounded by quirky and lovable characters such as Lumière, Cogsworth and Mrs. Potts, the two young lovers prove you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and everything can be solved by singing a catchy song.
In the live-action remake currently taking over theaters, billboard and television bulletins, the “Beauty and the Beast” from our collective childhoods is brought to life. Director Bill Condon (“Mr. Holmes”, “The Fifth Estate”) brings together actors Emma Watson and Dan Stevens as the beauty and the beast, respectively. They are joined by a star-studded cast including Luke Evans, Sir Ian McKellen, Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson, Josh Gad, Audra McDonald and Stanley Tucci. Screenwriter Stephen Chbosky (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”) penned the film’s script, which is brings the classic story with all its lovable characters and elements to live in the best way possible.
In my opinion, the very best thing about this live-action remake of “Beauty and the Beast” is what critics have commented on most: the film’s fidelity to the original Disney classic. The film makers already promised it before the actual release of the film and the trailer was their proof, but “Beauty and the Beast” does stay remarkably true to the original film. The story-line, as could already be seen in the film’s trailer, follows the plot of the original film nearly perfectly, with only a few side-tracks and some added dialogue to prolong some scenes. Apart from that, the story-line, dialogue and the characters’ identities are perfectly created after the original ones. The critics have mentioned this as a fault, because the 2017 remake does not add anything new to the original “Beauty and the Beast”. But with a live-action remake such as this one, is that really the point? Is it really the goal of this film, and similar live-action Disney remakes, so bring something new to the beloved story and characters? In my opinion, it does not. I feel live-action remakes are meant to re-tell classic stories, such as “Beauty and the Beast”, to re-introduce them to the generations that grew up with them and to introduce them to a new generation. And “Beauty and the Beast” whole-heartedly succeeds, by staying true to the story and its characters.
With the classic story come the, perhaps even more, all too familiar songs. The generation that grew up watching the original Disney animation in all probability still has songs, such as “Belle”, “Be Our Guest” or “Gaston”, stuck in their heads. For that audience, it is so heart-warming and entertaining to hear and see those songs being performed again on the silver screen. The lyrics may be sung by different voices and Lumière might look a little shinier than in the original, but that does not take away the fun of re-discovering these songs (and come to the shocking realization you can effortlessly sing along with every single one of them). Besides the familiar songs, “Beauty and the Beast” introduces a couple of new ones, such as “Days In The Sun” and “Evermore”, which are all instant classics. They blend in seamlessly with the original songs, which is the beautiful work of composer Alan Menken, who also composed the original songs for the Disney animation.
Finally, let us talk about the star-studded cast bringing the story and songs to life. In short, the film is brilliantly casted (kudos to the casting!) and beautifully acted. At the centre of the film, there are Emma Watson (“Harry Potter”, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”) as an independent, adventurous and fearless Belle, and Dan Stevens (“Downton Abbey”, “Legion”) as the tragic, physical and often funny Beast. Both actors bring their A-game to the film and, just as with the rest of the cast, you really notice how much they enjoy performing these iconic roles. The playful and often snarky interaction between Gaston (Luke Evans) and LeFou (Josh Gad) is hilarious, as is the friendship between Cogsworth (Sir Ian McKellen), Lumière (Ewan McGregor) and Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson). The joy and enthusiasm with which they perform forms the beating heart of the film and makes it all the more enjoyable to watch.
“Beauty and the Beast” is precisely what Disney live-action remakes should be: true to the original story and its’ characters, beautifully designed, brilliantly acted, and incredibly entertaining and heartwarming. It’s the perfect re-introduction to those who grew up with the original, and the perfect introduction to a new generation.
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