As far as their live-action remakes of animated classics are concerned, Disney has made three plays on their field and all three have scored.
First, it was “Cinderella.” Then came “The Jungle Book.” Now “Beauty and the Beast” joins that lineup with immaculate imagery, musical numbers that honor the 1991 original and a production design to end all production designs.
The story remains the same, with Emma Watson as Belle, a bookworm who is misunderstood by others in her French village for being a woman ahead of her time. She lives with her crackpot father, Maurice (Kevin Kline). Maurice gets lost on a trip, and seeks shelter in an old castle, but then is held hostage by a selfish, arrogant prince turned beast (Dan Stevens in a convincing CGI rendering).
Belle realizes Maurice is lost when his horse returns alone. She rides to the castle and agrees to become the Beast’s prisoner in exchange for Maurice’s freedom.
Once she starts to live in the castle, Belle discovers a series of inanimate objects that were once servants now cursed. Ewan McGregor voices Lumiere, a candelabra; Ian McKellen is Cogsworth, a talking clock; Stanley Tucci is Cadenza, a harpsichord, and Emma Thompson provides the voice of Mrs. Potts, a teapot along with her son, Chip (Nathan Mack).
Luke Evans is Gaston, a conceited and narcissistic soldier vying for Belle’s affections. Josh Gad is Le Fou, Gaston’s flamboyant sidekick. Gaston wants to win over Belle, but she tells him repeatedly she’ll have nothing to do with him.
Director Bill Condon has crafted by far the most grand and operatic version of a Disney live-action remake to date with the aforementioned immaculate production, but that’s not all this Beast has going for it. Watson, Stevens and the other actors, live or animated, bring a great deal of heart, humor and whimsy to the material and the musical numbers are faithfully reproduced, specifically the opening number, “Belle.” Also “Be Our Guest” and, of course, “Beauty and the Beast” contain dazzling energy and a spellbinding mystique.
This is another remake that is lovingly rendered and a worthy companion piece. It is an old tale, but will be remembered on its own. Now, please, be my guest.
Rated PG for some action, violence, peril, and frightening images.
Hall is a syndicated columnist in South Georgia.