There’s a pertinency to Beauty and the Beast, depicting a mob mentality, teaming up on somebody purely for being different, afraid of the unknown and unwilling to open their minds. Add to that the independent, ambitious female lead, wanting more than what her backwards small-town can offer her, it’s a film preaching positive, relevant messages in an accessible way. A good thing, certainly, but these are themes that very much existed in the original 1991 animation – so why not save the bother and just re-release that instead?
Alas, this live action reimagining of one our very favourite Disney endeavours does now exist, and while feeling unneeded, now it’s here we may as well try to enjoy it, and to be fair to director Bill Condon, that is rather easily done. Emma Watson plays Belle, who sacrifices herself for her father (Kevin Kline) when he is held captive at the grandiose abode of the Prince (Dan Stevens). Though a Prince is the last thing this creature now resembles, having been placed under a spell, and one that can only be reversed by true love. It’s not just him counting down the days either, as his staff – including the likes of Cogsworth (Ian McKellen), Lumiere (Ewan McGregor) and Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson) are also afraid that if the Beast doesn’t find love soon, they will never return back to their human form. To add to the perilous situation, Gaston (Luke Evans) is readying himself for battle, and despite having been rejected numerous times by Belle, has taken it upon himself to act as her saviour and free her from the castle. Thing is, she rather likes it there.
The overriding sense of not being needed is jarring in this instance. The Jungle Book presented a staggeringly impressive visual experience, using a progressive new means of storytelling that justified its existence. The same can’t be said here, but what exactly is different? Firstly it’s 45 minutes longer than the original, and this time is used effectively, for it helps prolong the coming together of the eponymous protagonists, which is important for it always felt in the animation as though their romance flourished prematurely. Meanwhile, La Fou has been fleshed out as a character and features the scene-stealing Josh Gad in the role, while sadly the same can’t be said of Watson. Her singing is impressive, but she doesn’t quite have the nuance to match it, luckily saved in this instance by the visual extravaganza, ensuring that the lack of subtlety is not so much of an issue as it could be.
The film feels remarkably well choreographed too, and while in animation form anything is possible, in these Disney live action remakes, they still abide by the very same notion. There are certain scenes, and songs, and individual moments that have been brought to life in an enchanting manner, ensuring even the more cynical of moviegoers will be moved. For tonally, this is faithful to the original, capturing the same essence, and the same heart that illuminated so many of our childhoods. However that sense of nostalgia is not quite enough, and while there is plenty here to be admired, simply indulging in the original still seems a far more enticing a prospect.