#REVIEW: “BEAUTY AND THE BEAST”
How do you pay tribute to and recreate a tale as old as time? Disney was faced with the daunting task of not only doing it once with their 1991 animated classic, but doing it once again this time in live action for an audience of today with Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, The Twilight Saga) at the reins.
Beauty and the Beast centers on a young woman, Belle (Emma Watson) taken prisoner in a castle by a frightful and unpredictable Beast (Dan Stevens). She takes punishment for her eccentric father Maurice (Kevin Kline) who is caught stealing a rose for his daughter on castle grounds. After getting acquainted with one another, Belle sees the beauty within the Beast after he saves her from grave danger.
All the while, egotistical Gaston (Luke Evans) tries forcefully yet unsuccessfully to court Belle at all costs even if it means ridding of her equally disapproving father. The Beast must undo a spell cast upon him by an Enchantress (Hattie Morahan) and together with a spirited motley crew of servants whom also were transformed by the spell, he must fall in love to return everyone and himself to their original states. Could Belle be the one to save the Beast and his castle from doom or will powerful Gaston‘s jealousy and unrelenting cupidity rewrite their destiny?
We will not make this a frame-by-frame comparison with the beloved Animated Feature we all know too well, but state that on its own merit, Beauty and the Beast in its latest incarnation genuinely is affecting, visceral and a heartfelt celebration of love – something the world needs right now. It captures the true essence of the timeless story on which it is based, that true love is unbreakable and beyond skin deep. We applaud that without impacting the integrity of the story we have fallen in love with, slight twists in casting and characters reflect a more inclusive world of today and this is responsible storytelling. The Film will connect to a new generation of fans in a big way with new messages and masterfully-utilized CGI Animation, incredibly life-like.
Watson possesses every bit of grace and strong will imagined of Belle. Despite lacking the vocal ability of some of her brilliant cast mates, she commands the screen in an understated manner. We never feel though that we know enough about the Beast and this is in no way a reflection of Stevens‘ great performance as truly he disappears into the role, making us sympathize for his defeated soul. That being said, Evans‘ performance truly is mesmerizing and a real revelation, reveling in Gaston’s self-obsession.
Turns from supporting players are magnificent. Ewan McGregor even off-screen is a true scene-stealer as Lumière the candleabra, playing well comedically with Ian McKellen‘s passive-aggressive Cogsworth the clock. Emma Thompson as teapot Mrs. Potts, also is endearing and a pure joy.
On its own, Beauty and the Beast is the purest of pleasures, which has the incredibly-unfortunate burden of an endless need to be compared to its predecessor. Fans old and new will find plenty beautiful to behold.
Walt Disney Studio Motion Pictures Canada release BEAUTY AND THE BEAST Friday, March 17, 2017.