It is rare for a film to be deemed a classic from the first time it graces the silver screen, but “Beauty and the Beast” defied all odds as an animated tale in 1991. Flash forward 26 years, three direct-to-video releases, a live-action television series and a global Broadway smash hit later and the story is still thriving in pop culture today. Disney’s latest live-action remake is almost everything anyone could want from the tale as old as time. “Beauty and the Beast” (2017) is wonderfully reimagined with an expanded story, gorgeous set and costume designs and the perfect cast to bring one of the most beloved Disney animated films to life again.
One element that makes the 2017 rendition a standout in the franchise is its ability to further expand the story. If you watch the 1991 version enough, there is no doubt you will start to question small story elements. A lot of the missing pieces are solved in the new film, so the story as a whole made a lot more sense. For example, the opening prologue sequence has been updated to have the prince be transformed into the Beast as an adult with everyone in the castle being stuck in time and not aging. In the original film, this did not make sense because the prince was at least a teenager in the original prologue and had to find love by the time he turned twenty one. Meanwhile, Lumiere mentions in the song “Be Our Guest” that they have been cursed for ten years. In the 2017 version, the lyrics of “Be Our Guest” are changed to include the updated curse stipulations.
All of the story additions are smart and add more context to help keep the film fresh. Another way the new version stays relevant is by updating the look of the sets and costumes. Everything has a gilded, antique look that really highlights the French provincial setting of the story. The sets are stunning and spectacular to look at, and the amount of detail is fantastic. Belle and the Beast’s costumes are especially regal and beautiful, particularly in the final scene. Emma Watson looked just like the animated character, which will make any fan extremely happy.
Speaking of Watson, her character is very different than the Belle you might remember. The new Belle is extremely intelligent, an inventor, the only girl with brains in the town, clever, and does not put up with anyone. She boldly denies Gaston’s frequent advances and stands up for herself to the Beast as well, which seemed out of place for the time period. Belle has transformed into a very strong female character, which is great for all the young girls that will see this film. Watson’s facial expressions and singing were off at times, but it is forgivable for all the times she nailed it.
Watson wasn’t the only perfect casting. Dan Stevens (the Beast), Luke Evans (Gaston), Ewan McGregor (Lumiere) and Emma Thompson (Mrs. Potts) all especially killed it in their performances. The entire cast was wonderful, and I applaud all of them for a job well done. Evans easily gives the best acting performance of the film, which is highlighted in his fantastic singing voice and a hilarious narcissistic moment. Stevens has a lovely voice as well, which he shows off during a brand new song toward the end of the film.
As a whole, the film combines the elements of a stage production with the animated original to create a new version that the whole family will love. The live-action “Beauty and the Beast” is simply not a repeat of past iterations, but its own film from the start. The darker yet lighter feel works perfectly to create another Disney masterpiece. The new songs also fit in well, as do the expanded supporting character roles. All of the character progressions and pairings feel very natural, and Disney deserves praise for the way they integrated interracial couples and the first two openly gay characters without dragging attention to them during the film. The live-action film will live on as another instant classic.