Beauty and the Beast is directed by Bill Condon and stars an array of high-class actors including Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Audra McDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Emma Thompson.
This live action version of the very old, classic tale of Beauty and the Beast holds nothing back in terms of epic story telling and grand production design, creating a feast for the eyes and ears from the opening scene through to the end of the credits and frankly I was really impressed. Based on Disney’s 1991 animated film of the same name, the story is actually an adaption of an old French fairy tale by author Jeanne-Marie de Beaumont and according to historians, the roots of this story can actually be traced back 4,000 years. Given the grim background of most fairy tales and how Disney had to sanitize them for mass consumption, I was suprised in researching this to find that Beauty and the Beast has stayed relatively intact over the centuries in terms of the framework of the story itself, its multi-layered plot and its moral center.
As a film franchise, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is actually known for many firsts. Not only did the 1991 animated film win the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture but was the first animated film to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar and was the first animated film to be adapted into a Broadway musical. It did win Oscars for Best Original Score and Best Original Song. Grossing over $425 million worldwide, this was without question one of Disney’s most successful films so it makes sense they would adapt it to the live action market. While I’m usually somewhat cynical about this kind of thing because all too often it looks more like a cash grab than an attempt to create art, in this case, Disney has really pulled off something special.
If you have seen the 1991 film, there is very little new that is brought to the story. This has the same plot elements, with only some minor tweaks and a couple additional songs and sequences. However, while I might have known what was coming, I was so caught up in the spectacle of this film that I wasn’t really thinking in those terms. What I mean is that the world building that is done here, the cinematography and costumes and set design and special effects are just specatacular, totally seamless and almost overwhelming in their detail. There’s no way you can catch everything that is going on in just one viewing. It’s hard to get across until you see it what an amazing visual production this is. But even better is that the audio aspects match the visual, with songs that are rich and bold, choreography and dance sequences that are far more impressive than you may realize in just seeing them once and clever use of all kinds of sound effects that keep your attention riveted to the screen.
Also in terms of firsts, this live action Beauty and the Beast is controversial because it’s the first time Disney has featured a scene in which gay characters are acting openly gay. All I can say about this controvery is that it is ridiculous to be upset about and is much ado over nothing. Anyone who sees the film will get that. There’s nothing risque or disgusting going on here and it’s 100% kid friendly. I think if anyone wanted to get really upset about Beauty and the Beast, they’d get upset about a woman falling in romantic love with a guy who looks like a cross between a bear and a lion, but somehow no one ever seemed to have a problem with beastiality in all the years this story has been around. Kind of silly.
The acting was surprisingly good on everyone’s part. I can only imagine this must have been an exhausting production for everyone concerned but they all brought their A-game. Really, the performances are quite good and Luke Evans in particular is just perfect as the narcisstistic Gaston. Emma Watson really sinks her teeth into the role of Belle, the nerdy young village girl who no one can quite relate to but who is smart enough to know she doesn’t have to care; I don’t know how much tweaking they had to do of her voice but she comes off in this as a great singer. Also, I enjoy watching Kevin Kline act in just about anything because he’s so good at bringing individuality and details to his characters which subtly make them totally his own and he doesn’t disappoint as Maurice, Belle’s father.
In terms of negatives, there aren’t many. There are a few distractions, moments where my suspension of disbelief wavered with some of the CGI and that sort of thing, but nothing really even worth commenting on. Basically you know going in to this movie what you’re going to get and it doesn’t disappoint in the slightest. For that reason, I’m giving Beauty and the Beast a rating of Sheer Awesomeness. It’s well worth seeing, very entertaining and ultimately a satisfying movie experience that I think will leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside no matter your age or background.
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