I haven’t seen the animated Beauty and the Beast since I was probably in kindergarten but that helped with seeing this movie in a different light and not holding it up to the originals standards or drawing comparisons. By itself, the story still tells the same tale we all remember from those days of viewing it on a VHS with a couple new extra additions.
At times this movie screams Disney and others no so much, which is great, when the story is getting dark I don’t want to be reminded of a colorful world and singing household items. At other times the sets, costumes, lighting and movements of characters give the film more of a feeling like you’re watching a play.
Many of the main characters are made to stand out from the rest of the crowd simply by their costumes alone. Emma Watson’s Belle wears a blue dress that is much more vibrant than anything being worn by the rest of the villagers. The only exception would be the red outfit worn by Gaston, played by Luke Evans. This is not to say that they are the only ones with lavish costumes. Each character wears something unique and different from the rest with makes it easier to remember who’s who out of the ensemble. While the Beast may not have the most colorful costume out of our three main leads all of his are easily the most detailed out of anyone in the cast making them stand out in their own way.
The sets and scenery are another thing that caught my attention throughout the film. For a nonexistent small French town you get a sense of just how small and tightly packed everything is. This is where we you see most of the delightful backgrounds, at times they look and feel like a printed backdrop rather than proper lighting and some editing. But as I said, the scenes that take place in town are the ones that make everything feel like more of a play rather than a film, so it just works. On the opposite side of things, the Beast’s castle is always a dark and gloomy place, but that does not mean than effort went into constructing the set and making it feel like a real castle. This is a constant theme throughout and only at certain times do you get a full view of everything in a room.
Watson does a terrific job as Belle. The character can easily be related to Hermione Granger so it is easy to see why she was cast. However, just because someone fits most of the role does not mean they are the best choice. After all, this is a musical and Watson easily has the weakest singing voice out of the cast. At any point it never felt truly natural and sometimes a lyric ends a bit abruptly rather than being held for a few more measures. The rest of the cast does a excellent job in their roles. Dan Stevens plays a powerful, hatefilled, yet caring Beast. And while Evans never truly makes you hate him as Gaston, that doesn’t stop him from being incredibly cocky, making him feel like he’s the bully of some high school movie. Then there is Josh Gad as the comedic relief character LeFou who steals the scene every time he opens his mouth. Gad gives LeFou more of a conscience, something not seen in the animated film, knowing that at times Gaston is in the wrong but cannot go against his ally, a nice realistic touch. As for the voiceover performances Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, and many others they all work very well and at times are unrecognizable.
However, these CGI characters themselves are not always the best at performing. By that I mean the more they move the worse they look, this goes for the Beast as well. While this is a common theme amongst films that use a combination of live action and CGI it is at times made worse the harder it tries to impress you. This is most notable at two of the film’s most famous scenes, throughout the highlight song Be Our Guest and as Belle and the Beast dance in the ballroom where Watson’s hair flows with her movements and the Beast’s fur stays rather stiff.
Overall Beauty and the Beast is definitely worth a viewing by anyone who loves the classic film or the series of live action remakes. It has everything you may love from the original along with some new additions such as more of a back story to both Bell and the Beast. It is a bit darker than what some may come to expect but also very lighthearted where it needs to be. This was the first time I have viewed a film in the line of live action remakes from Disney and it makes me very excited for what comes next.