Friday, March 17, 2017

Beauty and the Beast Review: Truly A Tale As Old As Time

Back in the 90's Walt Disney Pictures had one of its most successful periods with their animated films. This time for the company became known as the Disney Renaissance as each movie was one hit after another. Among these films was none other than Beauty and the Beast. Based on the french fairy tail Beauty and the Beast hit theaters in 1991 and was met with massive success even going so far to be nominated for an Academy Award. The film has played a major role for Disney as it is cherished by many moviegoers even to this day. So it is hard to imagine that Disney could reimagine this classic, but it seems studio has done just that with the new interpretation to Beauty and the Beast. Directed by Bill Condon Beauty and the Beast now joins several Disney films that have received a live action adaption. With its ensemble ,stellar design and seemingly homage to the original this new Beauty and the Beast looked to be a must see for the spring season; but is this tail as old as time enchanting enough to break into this new format?

As expected Beauty and the Beast centers on Belle(Emma Watson): a village girl who doesn't fit in and seeks an adventure in her life. Adventure eventually finds Belle after her father, Maurice(Kevin Kline), goes missing. Belle's search takes her to an enchanted castle where a cursed Beast(Dan Stevens) has imprisoned her father. Without hesitation Belle takes her father's place as the Beast's prisoner; although she has no intention remaining in her tough predicament. Eventually Belle meets the castle's residents including Lumiere (Ewan McGregor), Cogsworth (Ian McKellen) and Mrs.Potts(Emma Thompson) whom warm to the girl very quickly. The castle's servants plan to get Belle and Beast together in order to break the spell; but their scheme is unnecessary as,after spending time together, the two strangers form a connection that could break the curse.

If you have seen the 1991 classic then odds are you know how this tale plays out. However in cases such as this it is not about the what but rather the how; and when it comes to the new Beauty and the Beast's plot, it was stellar in its delivery. The story holds true to the plot points and themes of the original, but that is not to say that is interpretation does not explore new details in this fairytale. The plot does have goes into new areas, such as Belle's past, as well as change some things around like Gaston's(Luke Evans) arc, and I found that these changes only made the story stronger in its presentation. If there was one issue I had with the plot it was its sense of pacing which I found to be a bit inconsistent. While plot points such as the love story was handled well, there were times where I thought the story's execution could be abrupt as it jump quickly from one scene to the next making it difficult to really enjoy the moment at hand. Yet despite its pacing, the story of this live action adaptation remained to be a touching homage to the fairytale that found away to set itself from its animated predecessor.

Beauty and the Beast has been known for its fantastic characters and I think this ensemble certainly did justice to this idea. Emma Watson's portrayal of Belle certainly held true to the iconic Disney Princess. While she had a tough start Watson's performance was engaging as it brought out Belle's characteristics in a distinct fashion. Along with this portrayal was Dan Stevens' surprising take of Beast. There was energy to Stevens'performance that brought new life to the character while creating the right chemistry for Emma Watson's Belle. Along with these engaging leads was a supporting that was enchanted with color. Whether it was the sensible direction of Luke Evan's Gaston, Josh Gad's dynamic portrayal as Le Fou, the charismatic portrayal of Kevin Kline or the delightful portrayals of Lumiere, Cogsworth,Ms. Potts and all of the castle servants, the supporting cast had no shortage of factors working in their favor as every character felt important to the movie's presentation. In many ways this cast was just as effective as its predecessor's ensemble as it showed that the characters of Beauty and the Beast could be just effective in 2017 as they were in 1991.

While the likes of story and characters have always been a major factor for Beauty and the Beast, another element that made the animated classic so memorable was its musical numbers. The music by Alan Menken was always a cherished factor for the movie as the music featured a sense of magic that made every number memorable. So the live action version certainly had a lot to live up to when it came to recreating the musical numbers of Beauty and the Beast, and it certainly did not disappoint. Although pacing could hurt it at times, the musicals numbers managed work thanks to having a proper execution. What also helped was the movie's Broadway direction that gave each memorable number, like "Belle", "Gaston", "Be Our Guest" and "Beauty and the Beast", their own individuals sounds which created a sense variety to the music. Another benefit to this factor were the new songs which only added to the musical element to the film. I particular liked Beast's ballad, "Evermore", which gave the character a powerful piece to define his character. Along with the enriching music was the movie's design which really brought the fairytale aspect to life. The movie's effects had the right balance of practicality and movie magic which would compliment the movie's fantasy tone. When it came down it all of these factors were handled remarkably well which I believe was thanks to Bill Condon's detailed direction for this adaptation.

It may not have the impact as the 1991 film but that certainly did not stop Beauty and the Beast from being an enchanting film. While it had some issues in its delivery, the likes of story, characters and music gave this adaptation the right presentation to be both a homage and a solid film. It is because of these reasons I believe that Beauty and the Beast is the most engaging of the live action Disney films as it shows that this iconic story truly is a tale as old as time.

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