Over the past few years, Disney have been tackling live-action adaptations of some of their hit animated stories - from Cinderella to The Jungle Book, amongst others. The studio's latest at this takes on a tale as old as time as Beauty and the Beast gets the remake treatment.

Quite frankly, I've enjoyed the majority of the live-action remakes that Disney have released in recent years - I even liked Maleficent, which was met with a lukewarm reception. However, with The Jungle Book and Pete's Dragon, last year especially showed that the studio have this formula locked down. This year brings the live-action adaptation of arguably one of the most beloved animated films of all time, 1991's classic Beauty and the Beast - also one of my personal all-time favourite animations. Perhaps it's due to the original's legacy or the fact that we've just come to expect great things from the House of Mouse now (or both), but this was a film that came with much anticipation - as well as much scepticism - to live up to its predecessor. However, frankly, Beauty and the Beast is more so a beast than it is a beauty - which is sorely disappointing, to say the least. Again, the animated version is one of my all-time favourite Disney movies; it's a part of my childhood, I grew up with that film. However, this remake just fell flat; it can't help but feel so unnecessary and tedious.
Following identically in the footsteps of its predecessor, our eyes in this story is the kind-hearted, bookworm Belle (Emma Watson). When her father (Kelvin Kline) goes missing, Belle heads out in search for him, coming across a large, isolated castle in her travels. Inhabiting the castle is Beast (Dan Stevens) - a young prince that was cursed and transformed into this monstrous creature as a result of his arrogance - and living antiques (Beast's servants that were also cursed when he was), the likes of Lumiere (Ewan McGregor), Cogsworth (Ian McKellan) and Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson). The only thing that can free them all is true love and Belle and Beast quickly find themselves enraptured with one another. However, with the arrogant Gaston (Luke Evans) wanting Belle all for himself, her relationship with Beast is put into jeopardy.

With all of Disney's prior live-action adaptations, the thing that they've all managed to do fairly successfully - even the lesser of the projects, here's looking to you Alice in Wonderland - is add to the mythology and the characters of the existing story, in one way or another. The films have always managed to try to stand out, even somewhat, from their animated counterparts and still capture a level of "Disney magic". Where Beauty and the Beast falters so massively is in this; this film is a complete rehash of its 1991 companion. However, despite an added 45 minutes to the runtime, it doesn't in any major way add to the mythology or characters or story or anything. Even 2015's Cinderella added to our titular princess' mythology. Despite being a rehash, similar to this, it still had an essence of magic and innovation to it. Beauty and the Beast failed to recapture any sense of awe and magic that was found within the original, despite feeling like it was trying so hard to - any attempt to do this came across as feeling rather contrived. This may be the tale as old as time but its age is starting to show because it just feels so lacklustre and tired.
The characters were, for the most part, recaptured fairly accurately and superbly, and the performances bringing them to life were all - largely - terrific across the board. The likes of the talent voicing the anthropomorphic kitchen utensils did some superb voice work; this is a film cast quite perfectly. Ian McKellan and Emma Thompson were so fitting as Cogsworth and Mrs Potts and even Ewan McGregor's French was believable enough to make a convincing, pompous and terribly brilliant Lumiere; Stanley Tucci and Gugu Mbatha-Raw also gave some great, supporting voice work too. Dan Stevens made a really wonderful Beast too (even if the character's CGI was very questionable) and there was some palpable chemistry between him and Emma Watson too. As far as Watson goes, though, I was underwhelmed by her performance as Belle; there never seemed to be quite the intensity in the role we've come to expect from the actress. And her singing was unarguably awful, and the autotuning was painfully noticeable. However, Luke Evans and Josh Gad steal the show as Gaston and his companion Le Fou; the pair worked so well together and had the most entertaining dynamic and riffs in the film by far. Evans, especially, embraced his character's larger-than-life nature wholeheartedly and brought it to life to a tee.

Of course, we can't talk about Beauty and the Beast without addressing the film's key ingredient: music. As far as all of the new songs go, they were all - again, for the most part - pretty solid, with the exception of a couple of weak songs here and there; Beast's song, however, was not good. It lacked the emotion and the impact that the moment from the original animation had. This seems to be a recurring problem with the film; a lack of emotion or depth or investment that the original had that this remake does not. However, it's really the older songs that feel underwhelming here - the likes of "Be Our Guest" and the titular tune - which are so over bloated and grating here. It speaks for the film as a whole because - like all of the music in the film - Beauty and the Beast is an unnecessary rehash of old material that does not do the original any justice whilst not adding anything either. Instead, it just comes off as contrived, tired and, quite frankly, lazy. You'd be better off watching the 1991 classic because it's actually good and full of magic, whereas Bill Condon's live-action endeavour - whilst commendable for trying and for the scenes that it does recreate accurately and well - tries too hard and underwhelms too much. Even nostalgia can't save this classic animation turned live-action remake from being nothing but dull.

VERDICT:
Beauty and the Beast may be the tale as old as time, but its age is starting to show in this lacklustre and unnecessary remake that tries too hard and underwhelms too much.



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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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