There are few stories as magical as Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. As one of the studio’s most classic tales, with the animation originally released all the way back in 1991, legions of loyal fans got to enjoy the story from a different perspective all over again, as the film was brought to live-action by director Bill Condon.
With Emma Watson and Dan Stevens in the leading titular roles, along with Luke Evans as Gaston, Josh Gad as LeFou, Ewan McGregor as Lumière and Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, as well as a whole host of other huge names playing big parts, the movie was instantly given the launch pad to become a huge success, and the over $1.25 billion that the film made in the box office proves just how well it did.
Now with the film available on digital download as well as DVD and Blu-ray, we got our hands on a copy of the latter to see what all the fuss was about.
Opening in the traditional way, we’re shown the gorgeous French town that Belle (Watson) lives in with her father Maurice (Kevin Kline) before the instantly-recognisable opening tones of the song that steals her name, ‘Belle’, begins. Then, Watson begins singing. Honestly, I was instantly taken aback. Her voice feels extremely auto-tuned at times to the point that you can hear the tinny and robotic inflections caused by too much meddling in the studio, instantly wrenching you out of the mysterious and beautiful world that was being brought to life.
Don’t get me wrong, Watson’s performance as Belle on an acting level is certainly one to behold, but if she wasn’t up to par when it came to singing, then she should not have been the person to bring this fan-favourite Disney Princess to life.
Putting that aside, the story told here is of course a familiar one. Evans’ Gaston – who steals the show along with Gad’s LeFou on more than one occasion – has his heart set on marrying Belle no matter the cost to her, or her family and those she cares about. He’s somebody used to getting his own way, so when she shuns his advances at every opportunity, he takes matters into his own hands.
Everything changes however when Maurice happens across a hidden castle in the forest, where the furniture is enchanted and the host has never wanted to invite in a guest, ever since a curse was laid upon him turning him into a beast. When Belle sets out to look for him and discovers he’s been taken prisoner, she trades herself to put her in his place, promising she’ll find a way to escape and sending her father back to the village. When he arrives there he is ridiculed for thinking a beast and magical castle would exist, but nevertheless, Gaston goes out to find Belle, certain that if he saved her from such a thing she would instantly fall in love with him.
No such luck, as Maurice has trouble in finding the castle and is hailed as insane by his fellow villagers. All while Belle is kept prisoner, but entertained by the furniture and staff that work in the castle.
The movie’s most eye-catching and memorable scene comes when McGregor’s Lumière takes on ‘Be Our Guest’. There are explosions of colour, grandeur and a real laugh as the staff do their part in ending the curse and ensuring Belle enjoys her stay in the castle, prisoner or not. After the scene, it doesn’t take too long for the Beast to take the advice of his friends and be softer and more gentle with Belle, despite her being his captive. Then, they begin to fall in love.
Yes, it feels a lot ickier in live action. A woman falling in love with her captor was never something people really questioned in the original film, but it feels a lot different here when the woman is a real, living, breathing person on screen. Still, for those who don’t instantly root for the pair, the opportunity does come when Gaston comes to the realisation the Beast does in fact exist, and does everything he can to eliminate him for good.
Where the real beauty of this film comes in is with its music. There are the original songs that we heard woven throughout the classic, with some new additions. They all feel perfectly in place and bring the viewer right into the magical world of Beauty and the Beast.
So overall, yes, the film does deserve its success. There are a couple of bumps on what is otherwise a smooth-sailing road, but those involved should be very proud of bringing yet another Disney classic to life. We can’t wait to see where the studios go next with their live adaptations.
Beauty and the Beast is available now on digital download, DVD and Blu-ray.
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