Beauty and the Beast, Belle, Dan Stevens, Disney, Downton Abbey, Emma Thompson, Emma Watson, Ewan McGregor, Frozen, Gaston, Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ian McKellen, Josh Gad, LeFou, Luke Evans, Lumière, Mrs Potts, Olaf, Stanley Tucci
The film release that the world has been waiting for finally arrived on the 17th March: the live-action remake of the 1991 animated Disney classic Beauty and the Beast. It’s been a long time since I saw the original but everyone knows the story of the young prince who is imprisoned in the form of a beast and can only be freed by true love. When Belle, a girl from the nearby village, enters the castle one day it is clear she might be the one to free the Prince. Alongside the Prince’s enchantment, a few members of his staff were also imprisoned into furniture items, but with the ability to speak and move. The enchantment will be made permanent with the falling of a certain rose’s last petal. It’s a classic Disney story but this remake brings with it a few modern twists.
Emma Watson (aka Hermione Granger from Harry Potter) takes on the role of Belle – much to everyone’s curiosity as no one knew if she could even sing! – but brings to the character a more independent and strong girl to the usual Disney Princess type that we so normally see. This Belle wears trousers under her skirts, knows how to make and improve mechanical objects and wears an ear cuff alongside the classic yellow ballgown. All little things proving that this is the modern day princess. Emma does a great job as Belle, she is believable throughout as she goes through a range of emotions, and she gives us another role for young girls to look up to. However, whenever she sings it doesn’t quite sound right, there is no natural quality to it. It’s almost like it’s been tampered with somehow which slightly spoils the film in places.
Her opening song of Belle, for example, sounds completely off, and totally unnatural. This is all easily forgotten though as you get swept up in the musical numbers. My over-riding thought towards Emma though is just how beautiful she is. There are a lot of extreme close-ups on her face giving us plenty of opportunity to see how stunning she is, and of course the classic ballroom scene when she’s in the yellow gown will take your breathe away.
Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) is the Beast but spends the majority of the film in the costume so we only get to see his lovely face briefly at the beginning and the end. The CGI of the Beast is very good and Dan makes the character very believable. The relationship between Dan and Emma is great and there is a clear chemistry between the two as they slowly find themselves falling in love.
The rest of the cast is filled with famous names – some of which are given to us through voice right until the end as they are the enchanted furniture, so it was hard to recognise the voices to the people. For example, Mrs Potts was Emma Thompson, I didn’t realise it was her until her character changed back to human. Same with Ewan McGregor as Lumière. Ian McKellen is Cogsworth and Stanley Tucci is Maestro Cadenza and altogether they are fantastic in their animations. Playing live action characters we have the gorgeous Luke Evans who is perfect as the obnoxious Gaston and has a very powerful and manly singing voice. Alongside Gaston is his ever faithful servant LeFou, played here by Josh Gad. This remake caused a lot of fuss when it became clear that LeFou would be the first gay character in a Disney film. Frankly I think it’s terrible that some people took offence to this decision, especially as there are only small undertones in the character that suggest his true feelings towards Gaston. Josh Gad plays the role very well and brings a lot of the laughs throughout. However a lot of time I kept thinking of Olaf from Frozen as Josh also voices him and there’s no difference in how the two roles speak!
Visually the film is stunning, special effects did a fantastic job throughout. The colour schemes match the mood so we are given bright and cheery clothes and surroundings at the beginning but as the film darkens so does the scenery. The musical numbers are done in typical Disney fashion with some exceptional performances from humans and animations alike.
Overall, this live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast is a typical Disney film that’s fun for all the family. Ultimately though the film is an outright copy of the original animation, so everything from the costumes to the settings is exactly the same. So if you want to relive the classic then you’ll definitely enjoy this. The few modern twists to the film really aren’t that noticeable but certainly give Belle a less domesticated feel and a better role model as she strives to better herself through her learning. Of course it being a Disney film she still ends up with the Prince and living happily ever after!