Growing up, Beauty and the Beast was my favourite Disney animation.
Of all the princesses I identified most with Belle; she was strong and independent, loved reading, knowing things, exploring, discovering. I loved the film from the moment the first villager threw open her window with a bright “Bonjour”. The music was energetic and captivating, the story filled with intrigue, suspense, drama and romance, and in the end the prince captured my heart with those piercing blue eyes.
When a movie like this gets a remake I am always a little skeptical. How will it be reimagined? Will it still have the same heart? Will they treat the classic songs with respect or change them?
In the last few years we have seen quite a few live-action remakes of our favourite childhood animations, and often it just didn’t live up to expectations. Happily, this one got it right.
Beauty and the Beast follows the journey of Belle (Emma Watson), a beautiful and independent young woman who is taken prisoner by a Beast (Dan Stevens) in his castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the Beast’s hideous exterior to find a kind heart within.
For the most part, the film closely follows the animation, with a few tweaks and additions here and there. They have kept all our favourite scenes and songs, with a few new additions. Alan Menken, who won two Academy Awards (Best Original Score and Best Song) for the animated film, provides the score, which includes new recordings of the original songs written by Menken and Howard Ashman, as well as three new songs written by Menken and Tim Rice.
The film also explores the characters in more depth, looking into their backstories. What happened to Belle’s mother? And why was the Beast so cruel to begin with? One of my favourite character developments was that of LeFoe, Gaston’s dimwitted sidekick in the animation who begins to question the Captain in the live remake.
Emma Watson, a cult figure herself from her days as Hermione in the Harry Potter series, did well to fill the role. As Belle she is fierce, brave and headstrong, and at the same time caring and tender – very much like the animated figure. Previous remakes of films like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty (Maleficent) had to adapt the character of the princess to suit modern times – from women in need of rescue to independent, strong figures that girls today can look up to. Belle was already such a character and Watson climbed into the role with ease.
The cast includes a number of top talents. Watson is joined by Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) as the Beast; Luke Evans as the handsome but shallow Gaston; Kevin Kline as Maurice, Belle’s father; Josh Gad as Gaston’s sidekick LeFou; Ewan McGregor as Lumière; Ian McKellen as the mantle clock Cogsworth; and Emma Thompson as the teapot, Mrs. Potts.
The music is brilliant, the special effects are magical and the story is the same enchanting fairy tale that won our hears all those years ago. I can definitely recommend it.
Beauty and the Beast will release in IMAX from 7 April and nationwide on April 13, 2017.