BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
Review by Gordon Justesen
Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Stanley
Tucci, Audra McDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson
Director: Bill Condon
Audio: DTS HD 7.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Features: See Review
Length: 129 Minutes
Release Date: June 6, 2017
“This is the girl we have been waiting for! This is the one who will break the spell!”
“You know she will never love him.”
“A broken clock is right two times a day, mon ami. But this is not one of those times.”
I’m of two opinions regarding Disney’s recent streak of live action remakes of their classic animated films. They haven’t been absolutely necessary, but have been nothing short of magical in their own unique way each time out. First came Cinderella, then there was The Jungle Book and now there’s Beauty and the Beast, which is bound to dazzle and be adored by everyone who holds the 1991 animated classic near and dear to their hearts. On top of that, there are some new touches, not to mention songs, that distinguish this from its animated predecessor.
Nicely mounted and directed by Bill Condon, this is one marvelous production that a movie with such a title strongly deserves. Each of the beloved songs are recreated in riveting form, and just simply witnessing all the characters come to life along with the costumes we’re so used to seeing in animated form is quite awe inspiring. And most importantly, the heart of the story remains fully intact.
The story beat is familiar; young Belle (Emma Watson) strives for more from life than her poor provincial town can provide. When her inventor father, Maurice (Kevin Kline), ends up prisoner at a nearby castle by a hideous beast (Dan Stevens), she trades places with him so he will be free and safe. The castle, we learn in an opening scene, was place under a curse when the beast, then a prince, made a crucial error in front of an enchantress in disguise.
While there, Belle becomes acquainted with all of the Beast’s servants, also cursed. There’s Cogsworth the clock (Ian McKellan), Lumiere the candlestick (Ewan McGregor), Mrs. Potts the teapot (Emma Thompson), a singing wardrobe (Audra McDonald) and her harpsichord husband (Stanley Tucci). They are all hoping that Belle will be the one to finally break the curse...which entails the impossible; falling in love the beast.
Then there’s the case of Gaston (Luke Evans), a jealous infused wannabe suitor for Belle. At first, he is perplexed by Maurice’s claim that Belle is being held prisoner by a beast. But once he sees for himself, his perplexity turns to anger and gathers and angry mob to destroy the beast.
As far as casting goes, there simply couldn’t be better one in existence. In spite of catching flack for her singing, Emma Watson very much captures the spirit of Belle from beginning to end, and Dan Stevens (so unforgettable in The Guest) makes for a most compelling Beast. The cast member who walks away with the movie, for me anyway, is Ewan McGregor as Lumiere, whose rendition of “Be Our Guest” is one element here that surpasses that of the animated version.
As mentioned earlier, there are a few new songs added to this version, but there’s one in particular hasn’t stirred my emotions this much since Anne Hathaway’s performance of “I Dreamed a Dream” in Les Miserables. The song is “Evermore” in which the Beast pours his heart out in a most unexpected way, and one that we didn’t see in the animated version. I certainly hope it gets remembered at next year’s Oscars for Best Original Song.
So in the end, while not entirely superior to it’s animated predecessor, the new live action version of Beauty and the Beast is a worthy recreation with some magic of its own and some most nice new additions. It remains a tale as old as time that audiences of all generations will want to experience again and again, no matter which format!
There’s so much visual grandness on display here that Disney couldn’t lose at all when it came to a top of the line Blu-ray transfer, which is certainly what we have here. Whether it’s daytime or nighttime sequences, which there are equal doses of, the 1080p absolutely dazzles the senses at every turn. Everything, from the sets to the costumes, is nothing short of eye-popping, as this ranks as one of the more beautiful Blu-ray presentations you will witness all year!
Likewise, the DTS 7.1 mix is unquestionably riveting from beginning to end, which dialogue delivery and, especially, song performances brought to vivid, stunning life! Of all the songs, once again it’s “Evermore" that is the high point in terms of sound performance, which will leave you pinned to your seat. As far as musicals go, this ranks as one of the absolute best to ever grace the Blu-ray format.
Included on this Disney Blu-ray is an Enchanted Table Read, which comes complete with singing and dancing to live music, set pieces and more, as well as several featurettes including “A Beauty of a Tale” and “The Women Behind Beauty and the Beast” and “From Song to Screen: Making the Musical Sequences”. Also featured is “Making a Moment with Celine Dion", as well as a "Beauty and the Beast" Music Video by Ariana Grande and John Legend, plus the Making of the Music Video, an extended version of the song "Days in The Sun" with an introduction by director Bill Condon. Rounding out the package are Deleted Scenes and a Song Selection.
In live action form, Beauty and the Beast remains quite timeless and magical as it did when the animated classic first surfaced. The Blu-ray from Disney enhances its magical qualities to full effect and is one of the best presentations you’ll experience all year!