Beauty and the Beast remains one of my favorite animated films of all time. From the wonderful songs to the gorgeous hand-drawn animations, the film was the classical Disney era in its prime. Following in the footsteps of Alice in Wonderland, Maleficent, Cinderella and The Jungle Book, Disney has revitalized another of its classic animations and turned it into live-action. Beauty and the Beast pays homage to its predecessor while at the same time flushes out the story for the better. It is and forever will be a tale as old as time.
The main plot points of the story remain unchanged. Long ago, a young and selfish prince (Dan Stevens) was cursed by an entrantress and transformed into a hideous beast and is given a rose. He must find true love before the final petal of the rose falls, or he will remain a beast forever. Years later in a small town nearby, Belle (Emma Watson) lives with her father Maurice (Kevin Kline) and dreams of exploring the outside world. While out running errands one day, Maurice stumbles upon a Beast’s mysterious castle and becomes imprisoned for stealing a rose from its garden. When Belle finds out what has happened, she agrees to take his place as Beast’s prisoner. With the help of his servants turned household objects, the Beast gets to know Belle and may finally break the curse before it’s too late.
One of the biggest complaints I’ve seen regarding the original Beauty and the Beast is how could an entrantress punish a little kid for not letting a stranger into his house. It makes much more sense in the live-action version as the prince is now a spoiled and selfish adult when he becomes cursed. The enchantress also erases everyone’s memory of him to also explain why no one in the town knew of his existence beforehand, either. Beauty and the Beast expands on these little things in the backstory without changing the overall scope. We get to see a little bit more of Belle and the relationship she has with her father and what happened to her mother. Are they necessary? No. But they don’t hurt, either.
Where the film truly shines is with its casting. Emma Watson is a wonderful Belle and Dan Stevens is a suitable Beast, even though I feel that the CGI and facial mapping was somewhat off at times. What surprised me the most however was just how good Luke Evans as Gaston and Josh Gad as LeFou were. The two of them absolutely steal the entire film, Gad especially. He talks LeFou, who was the bumbling fool of a sidekick in the original, and turns him into someone hilarious and heartfelt. And while Evans may not be as physically big as Gaston was before, his bravado and pigheadedness is just as massive. Every moment they’re on screen is full of laughs. The film does a beautiful job at making the transition from animation to live-action while still keeping the outrageousness of these characters alive.
There’s no comparing Beauty and the Beast to the original, and yet that is exactly what ends up happening, mostly because many of the scenes are shot-for-shot translations. As magical as the film is, it still doesn’t evoke the same sense of wonderment I have when watching the animated film. I love the changes and additions they’ve made. It’s a wonderful film that plays directly to fans’ nostalgia. I just love the original more.