Disney doesn't really have the best track record when it comes to live action remakes of their famous animated films. They kept trying to be edgy and flashy whilst completely missing what made the original great. That being said, I was initially skeptical when Disney announced one of my favorite Disney films was getting a remake. Even though Little Mermaid was a rebirth for animation, Beauty and the Beast did set the highest of standards with this art form. So much so that it was the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture! An incredibly high bar was set with movie, so did Disney deliver again? Only one way to find out!
Since both versions are extremely similar, I won't be covering plot summary. Instead I'll cover the differences between the two--which changes work and which ones didn't.
Now, many people were uncertain when Emma Watson was cast as Belle, but she does a good job in this role. She has all of Belle's wit and charm that we fell in love with, but she does add a more inquisitive mind to this part by her asking more details about the curse and how she can help out. Her chemistry is good with everyone, especially with Kevin Kline as Maurice. Definitely one of the highlights of this movie.
Maurice: As mentioned, Kevin Kline has great chemistry with Watson, but his version is far less zany than his animated counterpart. I like this change, because we see more of his love for his family. Also have to give points that he stands up to Gaston, even though it backfired. Not to mention he had a part in helping Belle escape.
Luke Evans as Gaston wasn't as fun to watch as the original, but he still did a good job. I appreciated how Evans shows how he manipulates the town to his advantage. However, I'm not keen on him attempting to kill Maurice. Gaston would only kill wild animals or individuals that he perceives to be wild animals. It's a small change, but I give it to original Gaston.
I'm not going to get into the whole "controversial" issue with this character, but I'll just say that it's subtle enough. Besides that, I liked the other changes Josh Gad made here such as his friendship with Gaston, that he respects the town and his goofy nature is toned down. All of which made him a third dimensional character.
It's Ian McKellan. What else can I say?
He doesn't stray too far from the original, but they do add a far more "take charge" attitude when dealing with everyone.
Ewan McGregor had a challenge with Lumiere by having a natural Scottish accent and playing someone with a heavy French accent that sings. Now, Jerry Orbach will always be Lumiere to me, but I don't hate McGregor. He still has plenty of his good qualities and does an acceptable job.
These characters are the closest to the first movie and Emma Thompson does a good job with being affectionate yet still tough. Chip still acts like rambunctious boy that we care about.
Dan Stevens had a challenge by being almost entirely in motion capture and yet still give a convincing performance. Showing his life in the castle before the curse was a fantastic idea and giving clues about his parents was a plus. However, I don't think he quite nails all of the lines like Robby Benson does. I know Stevens is a good actor, so I think it was the direction he was given. Although I do love that this Beast is also a book nerd, so that he and Belle have more things to bond over.
1. The Curse:
This movie manages to explain what the consequences of the curse is! It affects the memories of the local village, so no one knows anything about the Prince, castle or the staff. Because of this, Mrs. Potts' husband has no idea that he has a family until the curse is lifted.
Also, we know that the servants were turned into enchanted objects, but were still able to have their personality, speech, movement, and mind. But if Beast couldn't find love before the last petal fell, then not only would he be a beast forever, but all the servants would lose all humanity and become literal objects without any sentience. This led to an extremely heartbreaking scene near the end.
They also made it vague as to how long the curse has been going on, which disproves other questions.
2. The Enchanted Book:
So, not only does Beast have a magic mirror that allows him to see anything, he also received a magic book that allows him to travel anywhere. This change was not needed at all. Belle and Beast use it to travel to Paris, where she discovers that her mom died of the plague when she was a baby, but that could've been said in dialogue. Also when she finds out Maurice needs help, she could've used the book to go there but she just rides the horse instead. I'm not a fan of this change, but it doesn't hurt the movie.
All the best songs are here, along with some new ones. I was happy that Maurice and Beast each have a song, but they are a little forgettable. All of our favorite songs sound good, but I do have to give it to the original voices more. Not saying the new cast is bad, but it's just a difficult act to follow. Regardless, they're still catchy for you to enjoy.
If you're a fan of the original, you have nothing to fear. Disney did a respectfully great job with this remake and clearly put a lot of thought behind it. All the plotholes from before have now been cleaned up and it was a joy to see everything in live action. But I'm going to give it to the original movie that told the better story. Those voices and acting choices really stood out to me. Everyone does a fine job here, but it just doesn't stick out to me as much. This is a solid A. This movie and the live action 101 Dalmatians are the two best live action remakes from Disney. Definitely go see it!
Next Time: Guardian's of the Galaxy Vol. 2.