Beauty and The Beast
Bill Condon’s live-action Beauty and The Beast is a charming and excellent tribute to the original 1991 Beauty and The Beast. This is not the first of its kind, with Disney having already released live-action versions of The Jungle Book and Cinderella, and a number of other animated properties are said to be in the pipeline including Mulan. But its predecessors pale in comparison to this picturesque adaptation.
The story remains largely true to the original, as we watch fondly as novel-loving Belle, played by Emma Watson, prances along seeking a life more worldly than what her small village has in store for her. Her life, though simple, is peaceful, living with her artist father (Kevin Kline). Her hand in marriage is pursued relentlessly by the egocentric Gaston (Luke Evans), but Belle refuses repeatedly and a future of spinsterhood seems certain. That is, until her father’s disappearance leads her to venture into the woods, where she finds a mysterious castle, occupied by an assortment of cursed household items and a hot tempered beast (Dan Stevens). Unbeknownst to Belle, these sentimental household items and their brute of a master were previously servants of the castle and their master Prince. Queue the love story that we’re all so familiar with, accompanied by those memorable musical pieces as well as some new ones.
This was no easy task, however Condon has been able to successfully reproduce a Disney classic, reviving the magic and introducing a classic to millennials. Emma Watson is breathtaking as Belle, cast perfectly in this role. Bypass the romance of the story and Belle’s character is one of intelligence and strength; a character familiar to Watson having played Hermione for 10 years. It is no wonder she executes this role so effortlessly. Her beau, Stevens, whose performance, while not quite in the league of Watson’s, still brings a humanity to the beast, provides an adequate companion to Watson’s Belle.
The household items provide the needed comic relief and are voiced by a series of big-names including Sir Ian McKellen as the Cogsworth, Ewan McGregor as Lumiere, Emma Thompson as Mrs Potts, Stanley Tucci as Cadenza (a piano), and more. Whether the film needed the addition of these big name actors to voice the characters is debatable, particularly when they all, along with Stevens, Kline, Evans and Gad, are outshone by Emma Watson.
That’s not to say there aren’t a few missed notes. “Be My Guest” is a CGI explosion on the screen, utterly, abusively overplayed. The running time is on the lengthy side, particularly given its target audience are pint sized and have mid-day naps. The movie would have been better served with a more edited approach, forgoing the embellishments of the additional songs.
Nevertheless, it is a beautiful 2 hours at the cinema. Emma Watson brings a life and vivacity to Belle that is astonishing. The CGI beast shows real emotion in the close ups (even if the long shots are sometimes a little off), and the dancing scene is tear-jerking. It’s a moving trip down memory lane, and no matter the occasional falters, Beauty and The Beast wraps you up in a warm embrace and takes you to places you may have been before, but never quite in this way.
With a note-perfect, stunningly well cast performance by Emma Watson, and solid turns from all supporting actors, Beauty and The Beast gives us something we sorely need in these troubled times; two hours of unabated, CGI infused, good ol’ fashioned Disney magic.
Aida Vucic | 22/03/2017