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Chris Kavan's Movie Reviews (3228)

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Beauty and the Beast (2017) 
Twice-Told Tale as Old as Time
3/4 stars

Ask any fan of Disney animation what their favorite film in their vast catalog is and I'll be a good 8 out of 10 will pick Beauty and the Beast. It's a big gamble to take one of the most beloved animated films of all time and present a new live-action version. Granted, Disney has had great success - Maleficent, Cinderella, The Jungle Book - all have been hits and led to a new revenue stream for the studio. I admit, I thought this whole live action revolution was a cash-grab on Disney's part but, for the most part, I have actually been quite impressed with the results.

Beauty and the Beast is no exception. The lavish design, the big musical numbers, the pretty amazing cast - they went all-out to provide that same experience one felt seeing the 1991 animated film for the first time. While I can't say they completely captured the magic of the original, they certainly tried as hard as they could and I don't think you can be disappointed in the results.

Let's start with the cast. Emma Watson is stellar choice for Belle. She has the look and demeanor needed. Even if her singing probably was tweaked a bit, I still think she pulled off the role as best she could. Dan Stevens, though mostly CG as the Beast, was also a good choice. Plus, he gets a bit more backstory here so you understand why the prince is the way he is. Luke Evans is perfect as the manly, full-of-himself Gaston while Josh Gad may be a bit over-the-top but is still a good counterpoint as his ever-faithful LeFou. Kevin Kline is understated at Belle's father, Maurice, but is given a lot of emotional heft for his scenes. Ewan McGregor leads our transformed servants as the candelabra Lumière with Sir Ian McKellen portraying Cogsworth, Stanley Tucci takes on the role of Maestro Cadenza, Audra McDonald plays his wife the wardrobe Madame Garderobe, Emma Thompson plays Mrs. Potts, with Nathan Mack playing the young Chip and Gugu Mbatha-Raw rounds out the main cast as the feather-duster (and Lumière's love) Plumette. Pretty much all of the voice cast is spot-on, though McKellen could have been a bit more, let's say, animated in his performance.

On to the music. There are a few more songs thrown in here, but all the originals are back - Be Our Guest, Beauty and the Beast , Belle, Gaston and Something There. Be Out Guest gets the most impressive production - the movie is worth watching for that one song alone as far as I'm concerned, though the ballroom dance to Beauty and the Beast is just as impressive. The film pretty much follows the exact same plot as the animated film - with a few touches thrown in from Enchanted Christmas as well as fleshing out some of the plot holes the original film left open (such as what happened to Belle's mother). It's much closer to the original than, say, The Jungle Book, but I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing. It really doesn't lose any of its impact and still retains that same emotional punch.

Much like The Force Awakens drew on the passion and nostalgia of Star Wars fans, thus Beauty and the Beast does the same for the animated fans. I wish they had taken a few more chances, but, overall, this film stands strong on its own, even if it can't quite reach the level of the original animated film.


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