Disney has been doing the live-action remake thing in earnest for a couple of years now, but the track record is still pretty pristine. Discounting the lackluster prequel Maleficent, 2015’s Cinderella is a sumptuous, incredibly earnest tale of goodness; The Jungle Book wowed with striking visual effects that made the dangers of the jungle tangible; and Pete’s Dragon is a deeply compassionate, heartwarming tale of companionship. But Disney faced no greater task than Beauty and the Beast, as this marks a redo of modern classic that is still fresh in the minds of audiences and attempts to improve on the first animated film ever nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.
So how did they do? Does Beauty and the Beast capture the magic? Director Bill Condon—whose resume ranges from character-centric dramas like Kinsey to lavish musicals like Dreamgirls—proves to be a swell choice to spearhead this redo, as he really seizes upon the original film’s Broadway musical leanings. Indeed, Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid served as the foundation for Disney’s 90s renaissance largely because songwriter and Broadway veteran Howard Ashman conceived of them as lavish Broadway musicals. Condon captures that spirit tremendously in the live-action redo, really selling this thing as an ornate and theatrical event in every sense of the word.
The film also attempts to close some plot holes that the animated film presented like why the witch cursed the Beast’s staff, what made the Beast so horrible, etc. Some of these work better than others, and the film could stand to lose a subplot or two, but for the most part this works. The Beast’s expanded backstory makes him despicable on the inside and out from the get-go, which in turn makes him more terrifying, and the performances of Emma Watson and Dan Stevens really sell this romance as an organic development instead of a contrived plot point—something the live-action film was in danger of due to the CG animation of the Beast.
So yeah, for the most part I think Condon’s take on Beauty and the Beast is a success. It’s quite magical, the production design is insane, and the performances and songs are mostly memorable—although Josh Gad steals this thing from a musical standpoint with his incredible rendition of “Gaston.”
Enough of my rambling, though, and Matt’s review is already on the site—we now want to hear from you, dear readers. What did you think of Beauty and the Beast? How does it stack up to the original, and where does it fall within Disney’s slate of live-action films? Does this make you more or less excited for upcoming musical adaptations like the live-action Aladdin? Sound off in the comments below.