Andrea Mendoza, Reporter
The long-awaited live-action version of the Disney animated film Beauty and the Beast finally hit theaters Mar 16. A month after it’s release, Beauty and the Beast has racked up more than $910 million in gross sales making just over five times its $160 million budget and $485 million more than the 1991 adaption.
The latest addition to Disney’s growing collection of live-action movies based on the studio’s classic animated filmography, Beauty and the Beast recaptures enough of the enchanting atmosphere and whimsical spirit of its Oscar-winning, hand-drawn predecessor. Beauty and the Beast is an unabashed live-action/CGI homage to the 1991 animated film that inspired it (in terms of both its story and visual style), but incorporates enough fresh material into the mix to stand on its own – if not as firmly as, say Disney and director Jon Favreau’s live-action The Jungle Book before it. Still, this re-telling is far from a disappointment. Beauty and the Beast does right by its predecessor, delivering a musical experience that both dazzles the eyes and plucks the heartstrings.
While the new songs (once again co-written by Alan Menken) in Beauty and the Beast aren’t as memorable as the most famous tunes from its animated predecessor, they are important from a storytelling and character perspective here – at the same time, serving to allow the film’s impressive cast to show off their vocal talents. Stars Emma Watson and Dan Stevens naturally aren’t as impressive in the vocal performance arena as the seasoned stage theater actors in the film’s supporting cast, but both are as good as – in some cases, better than – other A-listers seen in recent musical movies. Watson and Stevens help to make up the difference in the acting department, successfully distinguishing their own versions of Belle and the Beast from their animated counterparts. Stevens, in particular, impresses with an emotionally rich motion-capture performance, while Watson succeeds in making Belle a heroine more in the vein of Hermione Granger.
One notable character of Beauty and the Beast is the second antagonist of the story, Gaston’s sidekick, Lefou. The live-action film features several moments where Josh Gad’s (Lefou) character subtly voices his affection for Gaston (Luke Evans), as well as a short scene at the end where he is seen dancing with another man. Although the movie has received some criticism for having an openly gay character, Gaston’s wingman was always said to be gay.
Drawing from the original animated movie screenplay by Linda Woolverton, Beauty and the Beast screenwriters Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos retain the basic narrative framework of Wolverton’s script, while integrating additional character back story material and subplots that further flesh out the larger story. While some of these added elements prove to be more essential and effective at expanding the original animated movie’s fairy tale world than others, they are by and large woven together seamlessly here.
Beauty and the Beast in turn succeeds at putting a comparatively modern spin on the themes and concepts of its predecessor, without undermining the 2D classic that came before it or ostracizing longtime fans who feel that the animated film holds up quite well, more than 25 years after the fact.
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