'Beauty and the Beast' 2017 Review
Enchantress: For who could ever learn to love a beast?
Beware: Spoilers may follow.
Perhaps Disney's most unnecessary live-action remake would seem to be this one. The original was a masterpiece as is. There didn't seem much that could be improved upon. Much to my surprise however, this movie managed to stay true to the heart of the original while still breathing in some new life into the movie. However, it isn't completely flawless. There are still aspects that leave something to be desired. Despite this, it is safe to say that this is far from Disney's worst.
We get the backstory of a young, spoiled, selfish, and unkind prince (Dan Stevens) who is hosting a ball. The ball is interrupted by an enchantress disguised as an old beggar woman (Hattie Morahan) who offers him a rose in exchange for shelter from a bitter storm. Due to her ugly appearance the prince refuses. In response the enchantress reveals her true form and transforms the prince into a beast and places a powerful spell on all who lived at the castle. She leaves him an enchanted rose which is gradually withering away. If he can learn to love another and be loved in return by the time the last rose petal falls the curse will be lifted. If not he will remain a beast forever. Thus we meet Belle (Emma Watson). She is considered odd among her town as she spends time reading her books which confuses the townspeople except for our main villain Gaston (Luke Evans). He seeks to make Belle his wife. However Belle turns him down and he vows to marry her by any means necessary. Meanwhile Belle's father Maurice (Kevin Kline) goes out of town and encounters the Beast's castle where the Beast takes him prisoner. Belle finds him later and offers to take his place. And through a series of events the two gradually begin to fall in love.
If it's not broke don't fix it. That was the mindset in creating this film. The original animated version is one of if not the greatest of Disney's works. Thus making significant alterations to the story would not fly well with a lot of fans. As a result the creators chose to stick closely to the original. This decision is a double-edged sword as staying true to the animated version helps show that they respect the source material. However, at times this remake can stick too much to the original. While there are some scenes that are taken straight out of the original that breathe new life into this story there are others that are so similar if not the exact same as the animated version to the point that they don't add anything new and just feel like there is less effort.
I did admire the movie's decision to address a plot hole left by the animated version. The animated version may have overshadowed the plot hole with its powerful emotion but at the end of the day that does not mean they are not there. In the original it was somewhat vague as to how no one found the castle during all those years of the curse. This remake fixes that as the enchantress erases all memory of the castle and its inhabitants from anyone who knew them. And you see and get subtle hints about some of the people who have no memory of their loved ones such as Mrs. Potts husband and Cogsworth's wife which makes their reunion all the more heartwarming.
The movie also explains why Gaston is well-liked among the town. In the original the villagers he was just an all around muscular jock. Which is fine but wouldn't fly in live-action. Here it is revealed that he is a former soldier who saved his town in a war against the Portuguese.
There however is a subplot revolving what happened to Belle's mother. It was nice hearing Maurice talk about what she was like in the opening. However it leads to a subplot where the Beast shows Belle this magical-teleporting book that the enchantress gave him which feels completely out of place with the rest of the story.
The visuals in this movie are outstanding. Like its animated counterpart the movie spends the majority of its time in the castle and every part of it is shown amazingly. The songs' visuals are also well put together. They stick to the animated version but give their own spin on them. Despite the movie's decision to forego the stain-glass windows in the opening, the movie shows its prologue well in establishing the prince's personality without much dialogue.
Emma Watson is an okay Belle. While her auto-tuned voice sticks sadly sticks out like a sore thumb her performance was decent. There are moments where her expressions and delivery suit the moment while there are others moments that could have been better.
Dan Stevens is as the Beast/Prince is also decent. He captures the brutal and animal-like nature of the original and gives it his own spin. It was clever on the creators' part that they did not show what he looked like as the prince until the very end. It helps tie into the whole "beauty is found within" theme of the movie. The only real problems I have with his character is firstly his design. While it is tough to see Stevens underneath it all, the design could have used more detail. Secondly the movie also has a backstory with him having an abusive father. This backstory isn't bad per se but it feels unnecessary.
Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, Ewan McGregor as Lumiere, Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts, Nathan Mack as Chip, Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Plumette, and Audra McDonald as Madame de Garderobe are all amazing at their parts (for those who don't know the last two are the feather duster and the wardrobe from the animated version. The original didn't give them names). They capture the essence of the original but also make it their own and become one with these characters. Lumiere and Cogsworth's banter is done with entirely original dialogue but is still every bit as funny. There is also a new character among the servants named Maestro Cadenza (Stanley Tucci) who is husband to the wardrobe. This character is not in the movie much but he does leave a good impression. There is also a subplot where if the Beast doesn't learn to love before the last petal falls not only do they all remain as objects forever but they turn inanimate. This is one of the new things they added to this movie and it is really hard to not feel for them.
Luke Evans as Gaston and Josh Gad as Lefou are easily the best parts of this movie. Gad's portrayal is fun to watch in every scene. I really liked that they gave Lefou a character arc. This is something that I legitimately did not expect at all but it works. While Evans may not have been as muscular as the original he perfectly embodies both the arrogant self-centered jerk and the hate-filled monster he later becomes and both him and Gad are chewing the scenery whether it be in the scenes they have together or by themselves.
Kevin Kline as Maurice gives a good performance. They change his character from the original by having him be an artist instead of an inventor which was really for the better. He manages to give some good humor and his first brilliantly-shot scene establishes him as a sentimental man and loving father to Belle.
The songs are also well done. They brought back Alan Menken to compose them and he succeeds in giving all the old songs a face lift. Some of the new lyrics in the old songs (and one of the new songs) also paid tribute to the late Howard Ashman who sadly never lived to see the final product back in 1991 which was nice. The new songs themselves are also nice. How does a moment last forever although short is a nice tune, Days in the sun was much better than the deleted song from the original Human Again, and Evermore was brilliant.
If you're looking for problems in this movie you won't find any shortage. If you're looking for something on par with original you won't find it here. However for what it is it is a perfect middle-of-the-road adaptation. I have no problem in seeing the beauty within this movie.