Remaking one of Disney’s most successful, beloved classics (and the first animation to garner an Oscar Best Picture nomination) is a tall task, and one it seems many filmmakers will be tackling in this flurry of live-action remakes. Bill Condon and his brilliant cast and crew though, manage to pull it off.
What could have been a mere repeat minus the animation’s magic is instead a charming and visually stunning treat that will coax a smile out of even the most sorrowful faces. The production design is one of the film’s greatest assets. The world created is so transporting, you are completely absorbed into the world. The costume design too is fantastic, even if Belle’s dress does look like the skirt is stuck in her bloomers; this feature really is a feast for the eyes.
The cast too is pretty much perfect, and work together so well. The voice acting from big names starring as objects is brilliant, humanising their household furnishings. Emma Watson is great as Belle, and, despite similarities between the characters, manages to break away from Hermione. Two of the stand-outs from the strong cast are Luke Evans as Gaston, and Josh Gad as Le Fou. Evans is totally brilliant, completely embodying Gaston, and with Gad by his side, the two (especially Gad) provide most of the film’s humourous moments. Speaking of Le Fou, while it is great that Disney has finally had an officially gay character, the supposedly ‘exclusively gay’ moment is a mere fraction of a second, and not something I would say is exactly ‘exclusive’. But hey, I guess progress is progress.
The film features some new songs and moments, as well as changes to certain characters. One of the overarching changes is the contemporary update of character features and the film’s messages. Whilst it remains fairytale-like in the style, certain touches, such as Belle’s ear cuff, bring it into a more modern era. There is also a much more feminist and girl-empowering message at its heart. Belle is still headstrong, but is more independent (she is now the inventor in the family), and her resounding ‘nos’ to Gaston are emphasised much more and imbued with more meaning, all of which is emphasised by Watson’s casting. There is also more modern language (although also frequent Shakespeare quotes).
The result is something quite theatrical; it almost begs applause after certain numbers. There are great songs, music and dancing, all taken to another level in their performances. There is creativity aplenty (the battle scenes with the objects are particularly amusing in their entertaining brilliance). Whilst it might not reach the magical heights of the animation, it is certainly worth your time, and will leave you humming and skipping all the way home.