With a tale as old as time, a song as old as rhyme and a $160 million budget grossing $876 million, the live action remake of the Disney’s classic “Beauty and the Beast” stands as one of the highest-grossing films of 2017. Featuring an all-star cast, including “Harry Potter” stars Sir Ian McKellen and Emma Watson, “Frozen” actor and comedian, Josh Gad, “Downton Abbey,” star, Dan Stevens and “Star Wars” actor Ewan McGregor, the stakes were set high by fans and critics alike.
Other notable actors featured in the film were Stanley Tucci and “Nanny McPhee’s” Emma Thompson. Lucky for them, the film meets many of these standards, as the cast managed to transfer the fairytale’s beloved animated characters to life. Starring Emma Watson as the beautiful bibliophile, Belle, “Beauty and the Beast,” follows this young ingenue as she becomes entangled in a friendship and eventual romance with the ill-behaved Beast, portrayed by Dan Stevens, a prince cursed with hideousness by a fairy until he can learn to love and be loved in return. Also entrapped in this spell are Beast’s servants and other inhabitants of the castle, cursed to live as household objects. With a time limit determined by a magical withering rose, Beast has until the last petal falls to earn the love of another or else the curse becomes permanent.
While Watson’s cheekiness and sentimental performance captures the charm of her animated counterpart, she is outshone by the stellar performances of her co-stars, namely Luke Evans in his portrayal as the self-absorbed and violent Gaston. Arguably the best actor in the film, Evans’s performance adds great nuances to his brutish character. From his great chemistry with sidekick, LeFou portrayed by Gad, to his humorous dim-wittedness and violent temper, Evans succeeds in making Gaston even more intriguing than the films titular characters.
As the main antagonist, Evans manages to mold Gaston into the epitomal Disney villain, possibly outdoing his animated counterpart. Meanwhile, Gad’s and Evan’s version of “Gaston,” outshines the original film’s signature showstopper, “Be Our Guest.” Garnering laughs from the crowd, Gad’s comedic timing and performance as LeFou served as a major highlight to the film.
Additionally, the minor changes made to Gad’s character for the live action movie were well-suited and made LeFou’s live-action counterpart funnier, smarter and less annoying; going so far as making the character believably redeemable. While public criticism denounced the film for making LeFou a homosexual, the decision was perfectly tailored into Gad’s portrayal, adding another element to this iconic one-sided bromance. Then there is Belle’s affectionately sentimental father, Maurice, played by Kevin Kline. Kline succeeds in bringing the character up a notch, going beyond the bumbling, absent-minded inventor of the animated original, making Maurice a more empathetic and three-dimensional character. Kline brings a warmth that radiates throughout the film and the added backstory to Maurice’s past actually helps the character.
Portraying Maurice as a well-meaning albeit overprotective and sad father, Kline’s performance is more memorable than that of the original, animated Maurice. Lastly, Dan Stevens as the Beast was a great casting choice as Stevens proved he could improve upon his animated counterpart. Stevens emotional portrayal successfully transcends through the Beast’s CGI face.
His delivery adds an adorable insecurity to the Beast’s character and makes Beast’s inner self-conflict more visible which in turn makes his transformation back into a human more rewarding. Stevens’s chemistry with the other characters were believable and the Beast’s spiritual journey is far more satisfying than that in the animated version. The supporting cast was fantastic, particularly Audra McDonald’s portrayal as the opera singer turned wardrobe, Madame Garderobe. McGregor’s portrayal as the flirtatious candlestick, Lumière is charming but outshone by McKellen’s adorable performance as the no-nonsense Cogsworth and Emma Thompson’s heart-warming delivery of the matronly Mrs. Potts. What drives the live action “Beauty and the Beast” home is the movie’s soundtrack, scored by the original film’s composer Alan Menken and featuring the blockbuster’s most iconic songs, including “Be Our Guest,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Gaston,” as well as four completely original songs written just for the live action film, with lyrics by musician, Tim Rice.
These new songs include “How Does a Moment Last Forever,” sung by Maurice, and “Evermore,” sung by Beast. These artistic choices were great adaptations to the film, especially “Evermore,” which takes the place of the Beast’s Broadway ballad, “If I Can’t Love Her.” The song was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song as well. The Rococo-esque costumes and gorgeous set design tied the entire film together. Thankfully, Disney did not overdose on the CGI and the screenplay adaptations were perfectly tailored for a live-action remake while also cleverly working in frame-by-frame scenes of the original, especially Beast’s transformation back into a human at the conclusion of the film, which transitioned beautifully. All in all, the “Beauty and the Beast,” was a fluid adaptation to its animated predecessor that will help keep the fairytale relevant.