Live-Action remakes seem to be the core of Disney’s nostalgia fuelled campaign, enabling those childhood favourites to have a serious makeover and to favour, to an extent, human leads rather than solely exploring animation. A campaign that began with ‘Alice In Wonderland’ has seen a number of Disney classics graduate from animation to CGI worlds by taking advantage of the huge advancements in technology, as seen in ‘The Jungle Book’, with ‘The Lion King’, ‘Dumbo’ and ‘Aladdin’ next on the list.
‘Beauty and the Beast’ is the latest film to undergo the extreme makeover, the result? A rather impressive, charming, fun and dare I say ‘woke’ perspective on a classic. The original film was released in 1991, and since that time technology is not the only thing to have experienced development. LGBT members and women’s rights have grown and though there is still much work to be done, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ as a mainstream Hollywood film is superb and a positive step in the right direction.
Now, when this film was first released in cinemas, one story emerged as one of the more interesting aspects of the film. I am of course referring to the sexual orientation of LeFou, Gaston’s right-hand man. In the original film, LeFou was merely Gaston’s accomplice, performing dastardly deeds and generally being quite the sinister character. In this remake, LeFou is wonderfully played by Josh Gad who embodies this character in quite a different approach. He is now a man who considers his actions, he both questions and manages to an extent Luke Evans’s Gaston. The issue some American cinemas sadly had with the film is that Gad’s LeFou is quite clearly gay. Sad in this day and age that homosexuality is still an issue, one that is particularly incomprehensible when you realise they over looked the main feature of the film. A woman who not only falls in love with a beast but may actually prefer his hairier state of being. Beyond Gad’s brilliant performance of LeFou, the LGBT community does have quite a few moments to cheer for in this film. One moment to keep your eye out for, happens towards the end when a certain happy cross-dressing chap appears, a moment of pride rather than disguise, you may recall similar cross-dressing moments from the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ films.
Such is the case with any remake, there are of course bound to be moments where the director has taken some liberties by adding his own material, but on the whole Beauty and the Beast stays remarkably true to the original story. Small tweaks are made here and there to the benefit of the film, with an extra helping of humour added for good measure. However some scenes, such as a Beast appearing in ghost form over his own injured adult body as he recalls his childhood, or Belle doing her best Julie Andrews impression while standing on the hills adjacent to the town, really do not work.
However, one liberty the film has taken is providing nearly every character with greater depth and richer backstories. The characters all retain their original components, Belle’s father, for instance, played by Kevin Kline, is still an eccentric inventor, but now he has a bit more of a back bone to his character, meanwhile, Gaston’s ego is still overcompensating for his lack of wit, but the character is certainly more dynamic than his animated counterpart. Emma Watson as the lead is a good choice, a feminist both on and off screen, and though she does have her moments, at times her performance is lacking a more convincing performance.
One really quite bizarre thing occurs towards the end of the film. As hopefully everyone is aware, half the cast is animated. Ewan McGregor as Lumiere, Sir Ian McKellen as Cogsworth and Emma Thompson as Mrs Potts are all trapped in various household items, candles, clocks, you get the picture (Though none of the characters is one). As their animated selves they are beautifully designed with Lumiere, Cogsworth and Mrs Potts being particularly remarkable and charming. So, at the end of the film when of course the curse breaks and they each return to their human forms, it was actually rather unnerving. During the film you become connected to these characters in their animated forms, so when they inevitably do transform they lose a part of their character that worked so well. Sadly, never is this more apparent than in the case of Dan Stevens who plays the Beast. Fully motion captured to a really impressive scale and of course he is impressive as the character, but when Stevens appears, long haired and pale, I somewhat wish the curse had never been broken.
OVERALL *** Very well cast film, impressive animation, and by providing the characters with more substance you create a much stronger connection to the audience. A step in the right direction for many communities and really fanastic music.
RECOMMENDATION – A very enjoyable film, suited for the entire family and my favourite so far in this live adaptation campaign that Disney are continuing to work on.