Can a hearty serving of fairy tale magic and marketing savvy co-exist in one singular outing? Once again, the House Of Mouse proves it can.
The film that started what many refer to as the ‘Disney Renaissance’ back in 1991, ‘Beauty & The Beast’, gets a breath of new life with a live action offering. And, with ‘Cinderella’ and ‘The Jungle Book’ already receiving both acclaim and riches for following the same game plan, this is the movie that could really open both the creative and financial floodgates for the magic kingdom – and ironically, the blueprint will be staying true to what’s already come before.
This couldn’t have been an easy task – ‘Beauty & The Beast’ is one of Disney’s most visually stunning achievements (and, combined with that unforgettable score, was gorgeous enough to land the film a nomination for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, the first animated film to do so). Yet, director Bill Condon (‘Dreamgirls’) and his team pull off the near-impossible, not only re-creating the look and feel of the original, but add an extra level of depth and detail – the result is a combination of what CGI can add to the proceedings, along with a “we just arrived from a Broadway stage” old fashioned zest.
Casting? No complaints. Emma Watson makes for a sweet Belle – vocally, she’s not a showy heavyweight, but she handles herself a-ok with the material. Ditto for Dan Stevens (‘Downton Abbey’), given the enviable task of bringing a human quality to a role that calls for a whole lot of hair, horns and teeth. Luke Evans, on the other hand, gets to go full blown smarmy as Gaston, while Josh Gad (every time dude opens his mouth, all I hear is Olaf) is a nice comic foil. But the MVP…yes, even with the likes of Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson and Ian McKellen playing various household items….is Kevin Kline as Belle’s father Maurice; he, above everyone else, realizes the value of injecting genuine sentiment into this material to make it tick.
Well – Condon does too. He, thankfully, understands you just can’t pull off something like ‘Beauty & The Beast’ without having the heart in place. And if it does nothing more than steer a younger generation towards the original, its doing one fine job.