Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Beauty and the Beast: A "Live" Action Adaptation

There are no spoilers here for Beauty and the Beast if you've seen the 1991 Disney animated version or the Broadway show which opened in 1993. In reality, the new version is actually more of an adaptation of the Broadway show than the cartoon, but it does expand the mythology of the story. If my memory serves, the songs in the new movie that were not in the animated film and may be new to some are from the stage show with the exception of two new songs, "Evermore" and "Days in the Sun." At any rate, if you are expecting some strange twist in the new film there is nothing new. If you've never seen the original, you need to get out more often and you have no idea what you are missing.

There is only one real new reveal in this movie and that is we learn what happened to Belle's (Emma Watson) mother. No. I am not going to tell you. It also adds nothing to the story. There has also been some controversy as to including a gay character in the new version. In the original, LeFou, now played by Josh Gad, was kind of Chester, the little dog, with Gaston (Luke Evans) as Spike, the big dog, for kids. For adults, however, it was reasonably clear that part of the humor of Gaston and LeFou was that Gaston was so self-absorbed, he didn't get why LeFou idolized him. Trying to drive home this in the new movie also serves no real purpose. It is a controversy that is much ado.

So let's talk movie! As long as you accept CGI as live action, then Beauty and the Beast is live action. There are a few characters that have been expanded upon with some favorites still offering us a chance to be their guest. There is, of course, Lumiere (Ewan McGregor) and Cogsworth (Ian McKellen) who play their respective roles perfectly. Emma Thompson lends her gifts to becoming Mrs. Potts and mother to Chip (Nathan Mack). The role of the feather duster, renamed Plumette from Fifi in the new version, is played Gugu Mbatha-Raw and the Wardrobe, Madame Garderobe, is played by Audra McDonald have expanded roles. A new addition is a harpsichord, Maestro Cadenza, played by the inestimable Stanley Tucci. The cast of "objects" are perfect and a great deal of fun.

Two other expanded roles are those of the Enchantress (Hattie Morahan) and the always astonishing Kevin Cline as Belle's dad, Maurice. Both add to and expand the original story. Cline shines in his playing of the single dad trying to bring up an educated female in Eighteenth-Century France.

The central characters are of course Belle, Gaston, LeFou and the Beast (Dan Stevens).  I thought Emma Watson was a bit weak in the opening number of "Bon Jour" but that may also just be the quality of the sound mixing for that number and that my hearing is not what it used to be. Watson though still captures our collective hearts as the girl who is just a little strange. Gaston and LeFou are fun and have captured the roles. I admit that I am not a huge fan of Josh Gad, but he is really suited to the role of LeFou. Evans is the quintessential egomaniac and Disney bad guy as Gaston, who is a bit less comic and a bit crueler than the original. To say that Dan Stevens is rapidly becoming one of my favorite actors is an understatement. His work in Legion is stellar and so is his performance as Beast.  It is little wonder that given the iconic nature of the original cast for the cartoon, Disney has pulled out all the stops in bringing together such an incredible cast of great actors to take on the roles that were immortalized in the animated version. 

If there is one thing that is a bit over-done in this version is the "flying camera" pan which seems to be director Bill Condon's favorite shot. While it is cool a couple of times, it gets a bit old and jarring in 3-D. Speaking of which, if you see the movie in 3-D the snowball is perhaps the first time I've ever almost ducked in a 3-D movie. 

I like the movie and it sets a great tone. I will buy the Blu-ray.