Let me throw this out there right away: I was never a huge fan of Beauty and the Beast when I was a kid. I just didn’t watch it that often. I was a Lion King, Aladdin, Hercules, Fox and the Hound kinda boy. In my young, pre-pubescent mind, Beauty and the Beast was a girl’s movie, much like The Little Mermaid or Snow White. Can a child be sexist? I don’t know, but that’s just what I thought growing up. So I wasn’t super duper excited to see the live action retelling of Beauty and the Beast like I was to see The Jungle Book. To get prepared, I rewatched the old cartoon for the first time in at least 20 years. It’s good, I understand why people like it, but it just isn’t one of my favorites.
Now that that’s out of the way, I can say that the live-action Beauty and the Beast is enjoyable. I liked it fine. If you’re a huge fan of the cartoon, I have to figure you’ll love this one. It’s basically a carbon-copy, shot-for-shot, line-for-line remake. Of course there is some new dialogue, new songs are added, some events happen a little differently, but it is very minimal. All the songs you know are present, all the characters you remember are here, and the story gives you what you want. I could tell who the die hard fans in the theater were because of the clapping and cheering, so it sounded like they enjoyed what they were seeing.
I’m also not a musical fan, but I will admit Disney knows what they’re doing when they put a song together. They’re very catchy, the dance numbers and settings are intricate and interesting, and all of the people singing sounded good, which is probably the most important thing. The old songs are done very well, and don’t stray at all from what they were in the cartoon. There are a few new songs added in, and while I don’t think any of them are too memorable except for one performed by the Beast, they aren’t terrible. They just can’t compare to the nostalgia soaked chords of the classic tunes.
The thing I thought they did the best was nailing the actors, and I don’t mean like fucking them, I mean the casting was spot-on. Emma Watson is a great Belle. She’s got the looks, she’s got the intelligence and independence, she has the friendliness and approachability. Basically she’s the perfect human being and she pulls it off. Luke Evans is the spitting image of Gaston, I mean the guy looks exactly like him, and he plays him as quite the asshole, even though there were times where I thought he wasn’t being enough of an asshole early in the movie. Ewan McGregor is great and goofy with his french accent as the candle, Ian McKellan adds some humor as the clock, Emma Thompson gives that old English lady voice you need for the teapot, and so on. All the little side characters were done well.
I’ll get to the Beast in a second, but I wanted to touch on LeFou very quickly, and I don’t mean in a gay way. I don’t care that he’s gay, I always thought he was in the cartoon as well and he adds a lot of humor with the way he is subtly trying to win over Gaston. What I didn’t like was he wasn’t enough of a bad guy! In the cartoon he’s such a little antagonistic fucker, he’s right on Gaston’s side for every evil little deed. Not so much here, and I didn’t like how they softened the character and made him more sympathetic.
The character I was most worried about was the Beast, because it would have been so easy to fuck him up. I’ll admit, when I first saw him I wasn’t impressed. I didn’t think he looked big enough, they tried making his face too human, there was just something eating at me. But his appearance grew on me as the movie went on, and it was probably the best they could have done making a live-action Beast. His voice is deep and gravelly, his roar is ferocious, and he throws the little tantrums you expect. Plus, the guy really cleans up well.
With the success of these Disney live-action movies, I fully expect them to just keep remaking all the cartoons we loved from our childhoods and shoving them down our throats. It’s funny, because on one hand it annoys me that we are just getting served the same thing we have seen over and over with updated visuals, but fuck I enjoy them! I hear there’s already a live-action Lion King, Mulan, and Aladdin in the works so the machine will keep rolling right along, and we will keep eating it up. Luckily Disney is always putting out new and fresh ideas so it doesn’t bother me too much.
So yeah, if you’re a huge nerd about the original Beauty and the Beast well then you’re most likely going to love this one even with the little changes they make. If you’re familiar with the story but not a giant fan like me, there’s still something here for you. It’s entertaining and stays true to the source material, even if it does get a little goofy or offer up some head scratching moments. Truth be told, if my girlfriend didn’t want to see this so bad I most likely wouldn’t have seen it, but in the end I’m glad I did.
My Score: 7 out of 10