Disney’s latest live-action remake, Beauty and the Beast, has hit the stage, 26 years on from the original release of the much loved animated version. For die-hard Disney fans it’s a dream come true but for those seeking a fresh, innovative and exciting film should probably look elsewhere.
The plot is simply copied and pasted straight from 1991’s original film, with a few obvious, and if I’m honest, needless additions to pad out the run-time.
Belle (Emma Watson), who feels out of place in her small provincial town, spending her days with her nose in a book, wishing to get away from it all, gets the adventure she’s been looking for but not in the way she expected, leading her to the gates of a dark and decrepit castle, inhabited only by living furniture and a Beast (Dan Stevens) with severe anger issues.
The original film was a classic, even by Disney’s usually high standards, receiving Oscars for Best Original Song and Best Original Score and even an unprecedented nomination for Best Picture. The 1991 original’s strength lay heavily in the concise nature of the story and wonderfully crafted score and musical numbers. 2017’s remake however, isn’t close to the bar set by the original. The new film is far too padded out with unnecessary additions to the story, soundtrack and design that drag the quality of the film down ever so slightly and taking up 45 minutes more time than the original.
In reimagining such a classic film the Director, Bill Condon, has attempted to make everything bigger, better and more extravagant. This can be seen and heard in new story elements, musical numbers and even the design of the film. By adding too much faff, for want of a better word, the film loses the spark that made the original so special.
This is most evident in Emma Watson’s Belle. Her performance is sadly, quite flat throughout and her singing, although passable, can’t quite hit the same notes as the original Belle, Paige O’Hara. Dan Stevens does an acceptable job as the Beast for the most part, capturing the brooding anger and loneliness of someone locked in a castle for years but, like Watson, falters when it comes to the musical numbers.
The undoubted highlight of the film for me has to be Luke Evans‘ portrayal of Gaston, a perfect fit for the character and seemingly destined to play the role. Evans does so with egotistical callousness and narcissistic wit that perfectly embodies the nature of the original character and adds the best moment of humour to the film.
With a more focused story, slightly less extravagant styling and some voice coaching, this could have been a successful remake like 2016’s Jungle Book.
However, in Disney’s attempt to reimagine the film for a more adult audience they’ve lost that little spark of magic that made the original film so wonderful. This new edition has to go down as adequate at best. Although I’m sure Disney fans will still find it a joyous romp, I’d rather stick to the original.
Beauty and The Beast was released in the UK on March 17, 2017