OnStage United Kingdom Columnist
As someone who played Belle in my college production of Beauty and the Beast, I hold this film and its songs very near and dear to my heart. When it was announced it was getting Disney’s “live action remake” treatment, I was excited, though a little apprehensive. This movie had a lot to live up to, and overall I found the film entertaining. I wasn’t blown away by it, but I enjoyed it.
I want to start by saying that this is a gorgeous film. Every aspect of it looks exquisite, from the costuming to the sets to the cgi, every tiny detail looks absolutely beautiful. I also love that the designers didn’t make this version of the film look exactly the same as the original. They took the source material and did their own thing with it, setting it apart. That said, this made certain scenes feel a little underwhelming. During “Be Our Guest” in particular, I found myself wishing I was watching the original. Nevertheless, other scenes, such as the iconic ballroom scene, looked absolutely stunning.
I should address my thoughts on the cast. I thought that our leading couple, Emma Watson and Dan Stevens gave acceptable performances, with some nice chemistry. Watson’s Belle wasn’t as fiery as she made her out to be in interviews, so I was a little disappointed by this, and she was quite obviously autotuned at times, which is annoying. Still, I liked that the relationship between Belle and the Beast was given a little more time to develop and grow. I have to say, I had high hopes for Luke Evans as Gaston, as he has previously starred in “Rent” and “Miss Saigon” on the West End. “Mob Song” was a stand out scene in the movie, as Evans was incredibly sinister and threatening. This seemed to be his forte though, as his version of Gaston was not the hilarious, arrogant strongman we all love, this Gaston was a lot more menacing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I just missed some of his comedy.
A real show-stealer for me was Josh Gad as Lefou. Yes, he was still used for slapstick comedy, but his Lefou was a lot more witty and intelligent. There was a lot of fuss about his character being “openly gay”, which I was a little worried about at first. I didn’t like the idea of Disney’s first gay character being a villain, and one who is often the butt of the joke at that, but Lefou’s new developments mean he is a lot more sympathetic. Also, his sexuality isn’t addressed until the end of the film, and briefly even then.
I had a few issues with the sound design, as a lot of the time the music would overpower the vocals. I noticed this especially during “Gaston” which is a shame because this is a comedy song that relies on a lot of it’s witty lyrics. There were also a few new instrumental breaks added to songs like “Be Our Guest” and “Beauty and the Beast” which I thought made them feel fragmented and slowed down.
There were a few new songs added, which I thought didn’t add much to the story. The Beast’s new song, “Evermore” felt like a knockoff “If I Can’t Love Her” from the Broadway musical. In fact, most of the songs could easily have been replaced by songs from the Broadway show, which raises questions as to why they even bothered to write new songs in the first place! Fans of the Broadway show will recognise a few homages to “Home”, when Belle is shown to her room, and “A Change In Me”, during the new song “Days In The Sun”.
The remake does address a few plot holes from the original, such as why no one remembers the prince, or why all the servants were transformed too, but this film was never going to live up to the 1991 classic, but no one expected it to. It is enjoyable, entertaining, and has some funny moments. I’d definitely recommend going to see it.