WARNING! SPOILERS (although if you don’t know the story you’ve clearly been living under a rock)
As a child Beauty and the Beast was one of my favourite Disney movies. It didn’t try to copy anything else and it warmed my heart to watch the character’s love unfold. I knew every word to every song, I could picture every second and I knew that I wanted a castle just like that.
The story really is a ‘tale as old as time’ and has captured the minds of children and adults alike around the world since it was originally released in 1991. We see the young, beautiful and slightly obscure Belle being doted on by a loving father and harassed by a vile, vain specimen of a man named Gaston in their quiet village in France. Her father, an elaborate inventor, goes to sell his wares at market and finds himself lost in the woods on a cold night where he stumbles across a seemingly empty castle. Here he encounters the terrifying beast for the first time who keeps him prisoner. When Belle learns of her fathers plight she hurries to the castle to free him where she takes his place and immediately falls victim to the various household characters, quite literally – talking clocks and candlesticks included – who reside in the castle. Eventually she falls in love with her captor, a small dose of Stolkholm Syndrome taking hold, and breaks the curse which holds him and he turns back into a handsome prince who isn’t all that terrible and we assume they live happily ever after with all the servants who have since returned to their human form.
In true Disney fashion the movie is a musical, filled with enchanting melodies and songs to make you cry like a small child even when you have seen it a thousand times. I will admit when I first heard they were going to remake it I was concerned. I didn’t want them to destroy something I had held so dear for so many years. I have enjoyed the other remakes which have been made of late, Cinderella was particularly good – Jungle Book not so much – so I really had no idea what it would be like. Then the trailers were released and I got excited, this was clearly a movie which was going to reflect the old one beautifully, even down to the finest details in the trailer – made shot by shot to the original – and the use of the original soundtrack made me squeal with anticipation.
Emma Watson, though not my first choice when it comes to a Disney Princess, held the part to a reasonable standard. I did feel she fell a little flat when it came to the more musical scenes, clearly feeling a little awkward and I have to say the amount of autotune used on her voice made me want to cry for a whole different reason. Would it not have been better to find someone with an incredible musical talent who fitted the role rather than someone high profile? She was good, I just don’t think she quite hit all the marks. She is of course incredibly beautiful, a talented actress and a natural born princess, I just somehow found myself wanting more from her. Dan Stevens as the beast however was utterly brilliant. His portrayal was serene, it was subtle and it made you sympathise well with the character. The director, Bill Condon, clearly put a lot of thought into the beast and wanted to show the more gentle side for Belle to fall in love with, it shows his pain and his grief a lot more clearly than the original and we even learn a little from his past which until this point has remained unknown. And then of course we have Cogsworth played by the always excellent Ian McKellon and Lumiere, Ewan Magreggor. These characters were by far the life and soul of the party, stealing the scenes and truly being the comic relief. I enjoyed not only their voice acting but their small appearances at the end when they at last return to their ordinary bodies, using the real actors was a nice touch. The two did an extraordinary job of bringing these classic characters to life and if I ever get trapped in a castle with a crazed bear man creature I would certainly want them to ‘be our guest’.
One duo for me though really stole the show and that is of course Gaston and Lafou. Josh Gad who plays Lafou is also well known for his role as Olaf in Frozen and is hilariously funny, witty and just a little bit on the camp side. There is of course the thing that everyone has been talking about, a little sexual tension between him and Gaston. When Disney announced the character would have slight homosexual tendancies I was worried they would take it too far and it would be the focus of the character, but it is done in a subtle way and although there are moments where this shines through it is never taken too far and just adds a little something to the character. He is a joy to watch, as always, and although I never can quite see him as anything other than Olaf or Elder Cunningham (The Book of Morman) he really did make the character his own, and did a jolly good English accent – despite the fact they’re all supposed to be French. Then we come to Luke Evans as Gaston! I have always thought he was a fantastic actor and was thrilled when he got this iconic role and he far surpassed my expectations. Although not quite as brutishly large as he is portrayed in the original he is a rough, angry and yet oddly beautiful man who demands attention wherever he goes. His voice is beautiful and he was something to be witnessed as he strutted around town as the queen bee, even if he was the only one who thought so. His characterisation of both the charmer and the ruthless killer was persistent and ensured I could not take my eyes off him, much like all the desperate girls in the village. One thing I will say though about this pair is that I was a little disappointed by their famous song in the bar
‘ no one’s…slick and Gaston, no one’s quick as Gaston, no one’s neck is incredibly think as Gaston’ and so on…
Which i felt was lacking. The original was memorable and fun and this one seemed to focus more on random sword fights and spitting competitions than the effort being put into the song itself, something about it for me was missing. Can’t deny I wasn’t singing along anyway with a smile on my face because it was of course wonderful! I just wanted more.
The set design was spectacular, the nostalgia from the original was emanating from every moment and the added extras in the story really helped to bring the whole thing to life in a way which makes me want to go back and experience it all over again. The few errors which are easily spotted such as the Toms being worn by the lead herself or the historical inaccuracies when it comes to the people in town can almost be forgiven, almost, because it really has turned out wonderfully and I will most certainly be coming back for more. But overall it was a beautiful piece of cinema and I am incredibly pleased that it wasn’t butchered or ruined in anyway, I am glad it has been made so well and look forward to seeing what other movies Disney has in store.