Another year, another Disney live-action adaptation of one of their most beloved animated classics. This time, it's Beauty And The Beast's turn with Emma Watson taking on the role of Belle and Dan Stevens as the Beast.
It's been a hit-and-miss road for Disney with even its best remakes being just about average and still very much inferior to the originals. The Jungle Book may have killed at the box-office but it failed to capture the charm of the old film so this new outing, with the tons of CGI the trailers promised, looked like more of the same. The film opens with a ball taking place in the Prince's castle when an Enchantress in disguise shows up and puts a spell on him and everyone there. The expanded yet well-handled sequence leads us to more familiar territory as Belle is introduced and a big musical number follows. These first few minutes set the tone for things to come: some parts of the story are stretched longer, other parts are pretty much shot-for-shot exactly like they were in the original and, miraculously, it all works rather well together. Emma Watson may not have been the obvious choice to play Belle but she handles the role gracefully and even does a good job with the songs.
This live-action Beauty And The Beast is basically what Cinderella tried to be except this particular film succeeds: a charming, old-fashioned musical fairy-tale with some slight updates and plenty of respect for the original animation. The cast is pretty spot-on with Luke Evans and Josh Gad proving to be inspired choices to play Gaston and Le Fou while the likes of Emma Thompson, Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen and Stanley Tucci all offer excellent support. The beautiful score is perfectly recreated, as are the musical numbers, something that Jungle Book simply couldn't get right. This is a very faithful adaptation of the animated classic as it recreates every memorable moment from that film to the letter without, and this is the key, messing it up. We go slightly deeper into Belle's pre-"Provincial Life" and there a couple of new songs added to the mix but those additions are never distracting and blend in surprisingly well.
Overall, this could have easily been yet another bland cash-in for Disney but real effort was put into retelling a tale as old as time with all the heart and fun the original had to offer. There's certainly an overuse of CGI here and there are a couple of odd character design choices but those are nitpicks as this remake somehow achieved the impossible (a good Disney remake) and that's no easy feat.
Well played, Disney.