The animated Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is great and bookish Belle is a classic Disney heroine. So the live action adaptation of the Best Picture nominated movie has a lot of expectations behind it. Can it enchant a new audience?
Belle (Emma Watson) is an outcast among the people in her village, and longs for something more in life. She soon gets her chance when her father (Kevin Kline) is held prisoner in a mysterious palace for stealing a rose (the fiend!) and swaps herself in his place. However the prince of the palace is an enchanted Prince (Dan Stevens) who will remain under a beastly appearance unless someone can see beneath th beast and fall in love with him. Who could that be?
It can come across as Beauty and the Beast Karaoke as the live action film follows the same plot, characters and songs as the animated version. But considering how popular that movie is the studio would be crazy to change too much and most of the changes are to enhance characters (such as making Belle an inventor) or explain plot holes from the animated movie (such as why no one knows about the big freaking castle nearby). Most of these changes are welcome addition however it’s a shame the new songs don’t shine as much as the classics.
After the new prologue feature Dan Stevens in pre-Beast get up the film properly gets going as we follow Belle around her village set to the song ‘Belle’. From then on the audience is easily drawn into the story all over again. It has to be said the sets and costumes are a feast for the eyes, and while they can’t match the gorgeousness of the animation there’s still something striking about seeing this all come to life in live action.
Emma Watson is wonderful as Belle, bringing warmth, intelligence and modern sensibilities to Belle. At first I wasn’t sure about Dan Stevens’ Beast however the more interaction he had with Watson’s Belle the more I was drawn to his character. The stand out character though has to be Luke Evans’ Gaston who looks as if he was ripped out of the animated movie to play the dastardly villain. Evans strikes the right balance of humour, menace and over the top theatrics to bring Gaston to life. His and Josh Gad’s LeFou have a great rendition of the song ‘Gaston’ and is one of the many highlights of the film.
Theres been much made about Disney’s first openly gay character being present in this film and the ‘gay moment’ will have most people saying “is that it?” However on reflection it is still a big step in Disney history and the fact that Disney knows their box office will be restricted because of this (with some countries rating it adults only or banning it outright altogether) means it’s a brave move on their part. As this movie is also the first to feature an interracial kiss, one can hope Disney can continue taking further steps towards diversity in its future films.
Beauty and the Beast is an easy film to be swept away and charmed with, and with everything that’s going on in the world its nice to whirl yourself into a world where kindness and inner beauty shines through.
Rating 4/5 – sure to be a new family favourite, allow yourself to be their guest at a cinema near you