The “tale as old as time” gets a live-action version in this adaptation of the 1991 Disney animated classic. Stars Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Ewan McGregor, with Ian McKellen and Emma Thompson.
Directed by Bill Condon.
Most of the recent live-action incarnations of Disney’s animated classics have followed the same formula: strike a different (often darker) vision than the original animated film. While there are always throwbacks and nods to the original, each film set out to provide a unique experience. The results have been mixed, but in some instances, like Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book, you get an entertaining film that stands well on its own.
For the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast, director Bill Condon decided to do an extremely faithful adaptation, essentially recreating the original film, with some minor artistic changes and additions. Whether or not this was the best choice depends on how big of a fan you are of the original animated film.
Fans will appreciate that all of the songs they love are there. The scenes that they love are there, recreated nearly shot-for-shot. Even the sight gags and jokes remain largely unchanged. In some cases, the live-action performances match or surpass the original animation. Ewan McGregor is superb as Lumiere, an entertaining take on Jerry Orbach’s original performance. Ian McKellen and Kevin Kline do very well with their roles, holding their own within familiar settings.
Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey, Legion) is excellent with his take on the iconic role. He manages to capture the spirit of Beast without mimicking Robbie Benson’s performance. He’s not a bad singer either, even though he hadn’t sung professionally before the role.
Luke Evans’ turn as Gaston is interesting. He’s more spoiled pretty boy than oafish jerk, and while it is entertaining, it doesn’t quite fit the character the songs and the story require.
Josh Gad stumbles as LeFou, coming across as more annoying than comedic. Gad himself has some solid comedic talents, but he’s way too over the top here. His “flip” at the end against Gaston feels more like a convenient plot device than the completion of an actual character arc.
As Belle, Emma Watson is badly miscast. She doesn’t have the voice or the grace that made the animated version so wonderfully appealing. The animated Belle was smart and feisty and felt like a real individual. Watson’s Belle feels like an entitled, arrogant millennial, and not a principled young woman. She’s also a bit too dull for the role, and has zero chemistry with Dan Stevens, CGI or otherwise. Anyone who has seen the stage version of Beauty and the Beast (Broadway or traveling version) has seen what a talented lead can do for the overall production.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
The live-action version of Beauty and the Beast is best experienced on a large screen, and if you have one at home, the high definition transfer on the Blu-ray will make you very happy. It catches every little detail in the image, which features some outstanding CGI. Cogsworth and Lumiere look great in high-def. Colors are natural, with just the right amount of “pop” in the colors.
There are a number of extras on the disc that fans will enjoy. They provide a comprehensive look at the film’s production, and all of the actors participate in the extras.
Special features on the disc include:
“Enchanted Table Read” featurette. The traditional table read of the script was quite different for Beauty and the Beast. Director Bill Condon included dancers and singers in the table read, giving everyone a sense of what the musical would be like. It’s immensely entertaining to watch. Running time: 13:31
“A Beauty of a Tale” featurette. This “behind-the-scenes” mini-documentary provides a comprehensive look at the making of the film, especially how the use of CGI brought Beast and the other castle characters to life. Interviews with all the major cast members are featured.
Running time: 27:08
“The Women Behind Beauty and the Beast” featurette. The many women involved in the creative process of bringing Beauty and the Beast to life are featured here. Running time: 5:17
“From Song to Screen: Making the Musical Sequences” featurette. The filming of four songs, “Belle,” “Be Our Guest,” “Gaston,” and “Beauty and the Beast,” is featured here. Running time: 13:26
Extended Song: “Days in the Sun.” Director Bill Condon introduces an extended version of this song, which was partially cut after a change had to be made with one of the actors. Running time: 4:08
Deleted Scenes. Scenes include “Gaston Courts Belle,” “Bread and Jam for Agathe,” “Storming the Ice Gates,” “Lumiere Torches LeFou,” “Monsieur Toilette,” “Cogsworth Rescues Lumiere,” “Treacle the Lasses,” and “LeFou and Monsieur Toilette Reunite.” Total running time: 6:23
“Making A Moment with Celine Dion” featurette. The singer who sang “Beauty and the Beast” in 1991 returns to the story 26 years later to sing a new song for the live-action film. Dion discusses why she was initially reluctant, and why she decided to participate again. Running time: 3:24
“Beauty and the Beast “ Music Video with Ariana Grande and John Legend. The duo presents a new version of the classic song. Running time: 4:02
“Making the Music Video: Beauty and the Beast” featurette. The making of the music video is covered. Running time: 2:07
Disney Song Selection. Viewers can watch individual songs using this feature, or watch just the musical numbers one after another. Songs available to view are “Belle,” “How Does a Moment Last Forever (Music Box),” “Belle (Reprise),” “Gaston,” “Be Our Guest,” “Days in the Sun,” “Something There,” “How Does a Moment Last Forever (Montmartre),” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Evermore,” “The Mob Song,” and “Beauty and the Beast (Finale).” Running time: 33:09
Digital Copy. A Disney Movie Rewards code that unlocks a digital copy of the film compatible with Disney Movies Anywhere, the Ultraviolet service, and iTunes is included.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Beauty and the Beast is fun, but a bit too familiar
Obsessive Beauty and the Beast fans will love the live-action version, as it goes through all the paces of the original classic. There are some minor new additions, but the film may be too familiar to the casual viewer, who will likely wonder why they aren’t watching the superior original to begin with.
Release Date: June 6, 2017
Running Time: 129 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 7.1 DTS-HDMA, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, French, Spanish
Special Features: “Enchanted Table Read” featurette; “A Beauty of a Tale” featurette; “The Women Behind Beauty and the Beast” featurette; “From Song to Screen: Making the Musical Sequences” featurette; Extended song; Deleted Scenes; “Making a Moment with Celine Dion” featurette; “Beauty and the Beast” music video; “Making the Music Video” featurette; Disney Song Selection; Digital Copy.
Label: Walt Disney Home Entertainment
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