Swanner: I remember seeing Beauty and the Beast 1991 on opening night of it’s wide release. After The Little Mermaid, my hopes were high that Beauty and the Beast was going to be something very special. As the film started and the camera began moving slowly through the forrest towards the castle, I started to cry. Half because I’m a big girl when it comes to anything sentimental, but more so because something amazing was happening on screen. I did the same thing when I saw the live action remake this week.
They have made a few changes to the story, answering questions, filling in areas like character development, and adding songs from lyricist Tim Rice to Alan Menken’s score. Not to fear, Howard Ashman’s songs are all still included, and better than ever. What is really obvious here is that technology has changed, and has made it possible to make live action versions of Jungle Book, Sleeping Beauty, and now, Beauty and the Beast. All the enchanted characters are animated, yet it never feels anything more than real.
Director Bill Condon (DreamGirls) creates a complete musical, with expanded musical sequences, and a full commitment to creating a legitimate theatrical musical film. The screenwriters Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos pulled extras from the original story and from Linda Woolverton’s 1991 script, giving us a more complete story. The casting of Emma Watson was one of genius, for both Watson and the film. Audiences already know Watson as the well-read Hermione Granger, who would have been repulsed by Gaston and would have loved the Beast, so Belle becomes very believable to audiences right away. As for Watson’s career, she waited for the right “Big” project to make a play at a blockbuster. The result is now Jennifer Lawrence won’t be the only female making the “Big” money anymore.
The rest of the cast is terrific including Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Emma Thompson, Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Stanley Tucci and Audra McDonald. They are all so good. Steven’s Beast is angsty and sincere, while Evan’s Gaston is perfect… Just ask him! Angela Lansbury questioned why they needed to remake the film. Well, it’s been over 25 years since the original film came out, children have grown up, and now those children get to take their children to see what will be their Beauty and the Beast. It’s the circle of life… Wait, that’s a different story. So, do we need a new Beauty and the Beast? When it’s this good, yes.
Swanner: 4 stars