Beauty and the Beast (2017)
The Tale as Old as Time has been retold in a brand-new way, with Disney’s live-action reboot of the 90’s animated classic, Beauty and the Beast. Find out what makes this movie stand out in our official review.
Beauty and the Broadway
The line, “Tale As Old As Time” isn’t just a catchy phrase. No, in fact, it implies that the love story of Beauty and the Beast has been told several times and in various different ways. Most remember the animated feature from the 90’s, and why wouldn’t you? It had everything you’d want out of a Disney animated movie. Fear, intrigue, magic, beautiful music, and an eventual happy ending. That hasn’t been the only vehicle, over the years, though.
My favorite telling isn’t from the motion picture, but instead from the stage. The music is wonderful in the film, but it’s nothing like seeing it in person. Not to mention the set design is always spectacular. If you haven’t seen Beauty and the Beast on stage, you definitely should plan to do it. In the meantime, seeing the live-action Beauty and the Beast will serve as a fantastic substitute.
From the moment the film opens to the closing seconds, Disney’s live-action interpretation feels like you’re watching a show on Broadway. The musical numbers, set design, choreography, costumes, make-up, I could go on and on, but you get the point. It all looks and sounds like they took inspiration from the play, rather than just the animated movie, and it works.
Furthermore, they brought in seasoned players like Dan Stevens (Beast), Audra McDonald (Madame Garderobe), and Josh Gad (LeFou) to sing their hearts out for this movie and truly make it unique from the original.
As any good thespian knows, set design is important for referencing and accenting the location within the story. In this new and improved Beauty and the Beast, set design is absolutely on point. The castle and its grounds are dark and gothic, as they should be. The forest hiding the castle is thick and dangerous. Lastly, the provincial town is just as small and short-sided as you thought it would be. My one complaint on the set design would be Belle’s house. She’s supposed to be a farmer/inventor’s daughter, living on a farm. In the animated movie, this farm is separate from the village. In the live-action version, it’s cramped inside the village, at the edge of the walls. Their crops grow on the cobblestone road, which is extremely impractical. It’s not a huge part of the film, but it did make me cock my head to the side in skepticism. Nevertheless, it’s a small blemish in an otherwise well-done designing job.
Character Backstories Galore
While Broadway may have been the main inspiration for this film, the animated feature still infuses a lot of itself in the movie. Key moments and songs fill the screen, at certain times. However, as much nostalgia as it brings, it couldn’t be a carbon-copy remake. The animated film was simply too short for today’s standards. This meant that Disney and its crew had to add in certain scenes and musical numbers to fill time. Some worked, some didn’t. What didn’t work were the few new songs they added, like Maurice’s (Kevin Kline). It’s a pretty small, gentle number but it didn’t feel right. Possibly because we know Belle’s father as being a buffoon and this is the first impression that he isn’t. In addition to that scene, they try to create a sense that Belle is an inventor, early on. She creates a pretty cool invention, but that inventive side to her disappears shortly after those early scenes. If they could’ve incorporated it later on, I believe it would’ve worked wonders for her character development, but instead it got left to the wayside.
What did work was the insertion of backstory for each character. In the 90’s film, they couldn’t really go into the history of the characters because A. they didn’t have enough time and B. it’s a children’s film so most of it would’ve likely gone over their heads. This isn’t a problem in the reboot. With just a few words, they were able to create an entire new understanding for some of the stories most iconic characters. For instance, in the animated movie, Gaston was a meat-head hunter. In the reboot, Gaston (Luke Evans) is still an egotistical, narcissistic meat-head but we also learned that he fought in the war. Knowing this changes his whole dynamic and adds a ton depth to his character. This knowledge even comes into play later on.
While some characters got lines that introduced their backstory, Belle (Emma Watson) actually gets a scene dedicated to discovering what happened to her mother. Previously, Disney hadn’t mentioned how they had come to that provincial town, where Belle and Maurice were from, or why her mother didn’t make the trip. In the reboot, that all changes. Disney actually answers all of these questions in an understandable, yet tragic way.
All of this backstory and depth serves to fortify what was a weaker part of the original film, allowing it to become an even better picture.
Brought to you by the Letter D for Dignity
In the opening number, Gaston asks LeFou what makes Belle’s hard-to-get attitude so attractive, LeFou responds wittily with, “Dignity”. It’s a rather innocuously line but it sets the stage for every character in the live-action reboot. Whereas before, the animated film had LeFou as a blind follower and Maurice as a bumbling idiot, the reboot gives these characters realistic dignity. For example, Josh Gad’s LeFou is wonderfully hilarious and loyal to Evans’ Gaston. However, when Gaston has an irrational plan, LeFou questions if what he’s trying to do is morally right. It’s a farcry from the character we saw in the 90’s.
Additionally, Kline’s Maurice is not the crazed bumbling old fool from the animated movie. Disney establishes him as an inventor, early on, but when the Beast takes Belle as prisoner, he’s a rightfully panicked father trying to help his daughter, unlike the former description. He still maintains dignity while trying to get help from the villagers.
Even though, Beauty and the Beast is the story of Belle and the cursed Prince, the supporting cast have a much-deserved spotlight. Lumiere (Ewan McGregor) is charming and magnetic, Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson) is the same motherly figure we’ve always loved, Cogsworth (Sir Ian McKellen) is a surly coward, and Stanley Tucci’s Maestro Cadenza is a funny addition to the cast. I also loved what they did with Plumette (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). Instead of being a normal feather duster, with a face, they made her into a graceful bird with the tail feathers as a duster. It’s a beautiful interpretation of the character and supports the theme of dignity in Beauty and the Beast.
A Cinematic Delight
Overall, the live action reboot of Beauty and the Beast is full of class, character, and hilarious moments. It also includes beautiful musical numbers. The CGI is well-done very well done. I, especially, enjoyed the interpretation of Beast and his staff. Seeing it in 3D doesn’t really do much for the film, so I wouldn’t bother. I also believe that this is one of the most forward-thinking Disney movies I’ve ever seen too. Gad’s LeFou is openly gay and it’s extremely enjoyable. There is even a moment where one of the villagers gets blasted in drag by the wardrobe, making an otherwise good scene into a fabulous one. All in all, the live-action reboot of Beauty and the Beast does a wonderful job of creating a unique film that stands out on its own, while doing its previous versions proud.