Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Disney’s live action remake of Beauty and the Beast was the highest grossing movie of the 2017. This clever and sumptuous re-imagining of the 1991 animated feature film grossed $1,263,521,126 at the box office worldwide. The studio wisely decided to retain the iconic songs composed by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, as it was clear that they were an integral part of the original films popularity and critical success. Director Bill Condon cleverly oversees the transition from animation to live action with a film that is tonally right, witty, and genuinely emotional. The story and characters are defined in such a fashion as to have appeal to multiple age groups. His even-handed approach to the material and inherent understanding of the genre, means that Beauty and the Beast is extremely accessible. Although being very dependent on modern computer generated visual effects and numerous sequences played out against green screen environments, this is still very much a story driven tale.
The film has an outstanding ensemble cast of quality character actors (Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Emma Thompson and Ian McKellen), all of whom do their own singing. Emma Watson is well cast as Belle and performs keys songs such as songs "Belle" and "How Does a Moment Last Forever (Montmartre)" superbly. I was very impressed with Luke Evans as Gaston, who sports a robust baritone singing voice. All performances are spot on in an appropriate idiom for such material. The script manages to find the right balance between the requisite comedy, drama and scares. Furthermore, the film has a handsome production design, blending both historical styles with Disney’s signature aesthetic. Tobias A. Schliessler’s cinematography uses all the colours of the spectrum, creating a vivid and lush visual canvas. Furthermore, Beauty and the Beast finds the right blend of song and narrative exposition and does not suffer any lulls in its story arc. If you are a cinephile then you’ll especially enjoy the song “Be Our Guest” which features a cornucopia of homages to the golden age of the Hollywood musical.
Although I clearly fall outside the target demographics for such a movie, I found Beauty and the Beast to be entertaining and greatly appreciated its craft as well as cinematic literacy. It would be foolish to compare it to Jean Cocteau’s sublime 1946 version, as they are not like-for-like equivalents. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is a lavishly tooled and polished, but unashamedly commercial undertaking. A finely tuned and honed product that has been specifically designed to be sold to a clear audience. However, that is not to say that such undertakings cannot be entertaining and Beauty and the Beast more than meets that requirement. If Disney manages to produce a similar re-imagining for The Lion King, then I suspect that consumer goodwill will guarantee another killing at the box office. The question just remains as to whether the public appetite for such remakes is sustainable, but I suspect that the answer is yes.