KINGMAN – Disney brings the opulence of its 1991 animated blockbuster, “Beauty and the Beast,” to the screen again. This time in live-action.
While it follows the original perfectly, there is an added scene, some new songs and an additional character. Don’t worry, the additions aren’t glaring intrusions on the classic and fans can sing along to their favorite songs. The choreographed musical scores unfold like a Broadway production and CGI-based scores such as “Be Our Guest” are filled with dazzling effects reminiscent of “Fantasia.” Disney’s attention to detail and skill in bringing life to an animated world prove to be consistently magical.
Luke Evans makes for a far more classy Gaston than was afforded in the animated version. Evans possesses the handsome saunter and stature, but lacks a touch of Gaston’s gross chauvinism and exaggerated narcissism.
Emma Watson is perfectly affable as the carefree, tomboyish and innovative Belle. She’s managed the frumpy, yet pretty, girl-next-door role since her tenure as Hermione in the Potter series. This is not her strongest role, but she fits nicely into the shoes of a quasi-princess heroine.
Kevin Kline transforms Belle’s father, Maurice, from a bumbling caricature to a thoughtful, caring, selfless figure.
Dan Stevens (“Downtown Abbey”) provides the Beast’s voice. Though the fully CGI-rendered Beast is not convincing, the Beast’s facial expressions and similarities to the animated creature provide an endearing experience for fans. Stevens has more opportunity to flesh out the Beast’s personality through the added scenes. This is a welcome treat for fans as the animated Beast was loveable, but one-dimensional. A splash of diversity through cameo appearances rounds out the humans-turned-housewares.
Adult Talk: Watching actual humans engage with the Beast and cursed housewares does toy with the preposterous notions of the story. There is a nod to a same-sex interest as LeFou is enamored with Gaston and – later – a dinner guest. However, this is also a movie about a young woman who’s in love with a giant dog and has Stockholm Syndrome. Belle isn’t afraid of this werewolf-esque creature and chooses him over a war veteran. Granted, Evan’s Gaston holds a bit of a creep factor, but to each her own.
Ultimately, nostalgia is what will keep this film afloat for many. With a $300 million budget, the shoddy set design and jarring CGI are reprehensible. Fans will either be joyous and lulled by sentimentality or vexed by the desecration of their favorite animated characters. Luckily, the 2-hour runtime is fast-paced and can hold the interest of young viewers.
Nostalgic Disney Fans & Family Audiences: 4 out of 4 Miners
Non-Disney Fans who need a low-key film: 3 out of 4 Miners
Diehard Disney Fans & People who hate musicals: 2 out of 4 Miners