Beauty and the Beast, B
Rated PG, 130 minutes
It's a tale that's old as time, and Disney's live-action remake of the classic, iconic 1991 animated film "Beauty and the Beast" attempts to relive some of that magic in a fresh way, with mostly solid results. While new version is clean, entertaining and energetic, it doesn't quite live up to the wondrous joy of the original, or the hype that the Disney machine has created in recent months.
Belle (Emma Watson), a bright, beautiful and independent young woman, is taken prisoner by a beast (Dan Stevens) in its castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle's enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the beast's hideous exterior, allowing her to recognize the kind heart and soul of the true prince that hides on the inside.
Directed by Bill Condon ("Gods and Monsters") with a script co-written by Stephen Chbosky ("The Perks of Being a Wallflower") and Evan Spiliotopoulos ("The Huntsmen: Winter's War"), "Beauty and the Beast" thankfully retains Alan Menken's Oscar-winning music here, as that was a part of the original film's charm, and creating some of this film's more memorable moments, too. With an all-star cast, first-rate visuals and production values, it's evident (to the tune of a $160 million budget), that Disney is pulling out all the stops to recreate some magic, with some pleasant, but not incredible results.
Ultimately, it stands on its own two legs OK even if some will find it disappointing compared to the original film. Many of the story elements, such as the various talking items, work better in animated form. This "B&B" provides more backstory to the Prince's story, though it's largely unnecessary. "Harry Potter's" Watson is an inspired Belle, giving some spunk to the role, not to mention a nice singing voice, and "Downton Abbey's" Stevens is a dashingly bland Prince/Beast.
All the musical numbers are well choreographed and well-staged, most memorably "Be Our Guest" and the final "Beauty and the Beast," which will surely elicit some nostalgic. Of the large cast, standouts include Oscar-winner Kevin Kline as Belle's father, and of the talking, magical items, Ewan McGregor is an engaging Lumiere, Ian McKellan a warm presence as Cogsworth, while Oscar-winner Emma Thompson is a cheery Mrs. Potts. Much has also been written about Josh Gad's openly gay character, as LeFou, a flamboyant sidekick to Gaston (a miscast Luke Evans), and he's mostly a pleasant, entertaining comic diversion.
With sublime sets, costumes and visuals, "Beauty and the Beast" impressively recreates, but doesn't necessarily improve upon, the original. Much like LeFou, it's an entertaining diversion. It's well-done but still doesn't outshine the 1991 film on which it's based. A must-see for Disney-philes.