Disney's latest live action adaptation is a familiar, yet magical experience.

The animated Beauty and the Beast feature film was released by Disney way back 1991. The film was regarded as an instant classic and became a significant movie not only for the animation genre but for the film industry as a whole.

It was the first animated feature to be nominated for Best Picture in the Academy Awards and singlehandedly put a struggling Disney back on the map by being responsible for ushering in Disney's Silver Age. It received praise for its brilliance by utilizing new techniques in animation to create its timeless look.

That's an insanely high bar for Bill Condon and his team to live up to.

For all intents and purposes, the film delivers. The direction was solid and confident. Every aspect was treated with respect in reference to the original film and I couldn't help but smile at every musical number. I loved the humor, the extravagance, and the love story of it all.

That being said, do I feel that the live action remake was necessary? No. Was it more of a cash grab on Disney's part? It would be naive not to think so. This Beauty and the Beast is by no means a perfect adaptation of the animated film. No film could ever recapture that same magic again. It has its flaws just like any other film, and to expect otherwise is a mistake and a disservice to the movie.

The story is basically the same one that everyone remembers. No surprises there, as I'd expect Disney would want to lean more on the safe side with this material. With Cinderella and Jungle Book getting great reviews and solid box office returns, I imagine they would prefer more of those templates than something like Alice in Wonderland.  It is a "tale as old as time" after all, and you can't go wrong with that.

The filmmakers seem to think that a little prodding was needed though, as the film adds a few tweaks to the story. I think the idea of having Le Fou be gay was brilliant, as it gave the character an interesting dimension and showed how the film was keeping up with the times. The tweaks to both Belle and the Beast's backstories were interesting, but at the same time felt nothing more than flourishes without any real impact. The film tries to delve deeper into the main characters, but in the end the changes were inconsequential to the movie as a whole.

Emma Watson created a confident and believable live action rendering of one of Disney's most beloved female leads. She was born to play roles portraying a smart, sensitive and independent woman. Her genuine love for the material showed in her performance and was the perfect anchor for the film.

That's not to say that her acting abilities were flawless, as Watson looked weird with her quirks and her sometimes awkwardly acted scenes. That close up shot of her when she sees Chip for the first time still weirds me out. It sometimes looked way too staged to me. Her smile though is magic and when she's in her element (i.e. when she's dancing and looking like she's really having fun), she elevates the movie to a whole new level.

Watch out for the name Dan Stevens, as he's going to be an in-demand actor for the next couple of years. If you've seen him in Legion, you wouldn't believe that he and the titular Beast are one and the same. Granted, it's sometimes painfully obvious that he's still green in terms of being involved in projects as big as this, but I can't help but be impressed with the man.

He delivers an amazing performance, pulling off an imposing personality and a gentle, sometimes childish character at the same time. Pulling of the gentle demeanor was key to me. Anyone can growl and snarl behind a mask, but it was imperative that the Beast was shown as a kindhearted individual too. That lost innocence that Dan Stevens was able to bring to the table was what made him an amazing Beast.

It wasn't all perfect though, as the CGI beast could have looked better. Sometimes he looks like a furry man rather than a monstrous behemoth. Dan Steven's voice was also uneven in the movie. Sometimes he doesn't sound naturally like the Beast but rather sounds like a man trapped inside a costume.

Together, the chemistry of the two leads were great. Those scenes that they were together (either when they were having playful banter or a shouting match) were some of the film's best moments. They gave the film a sense of realism and relatability that an animated film could never do. As perfect as the animated feature was, you can't draw that glimmer in Emma Watson's eyes as they were dancing in the great hall to the iconic "Beauty and the Beast" song.

Luke Evans as Gaston was a miss for me. Don't get me wrong, I think the guy is a really good actor.  He was great in all the musical numbers and he was able to take ownership of a beautifully-written character. But he was too small to be a Gaston. He wasn't threatening enough and frankly, he wasn't pretty enough.

Gaston had to have that smile. He had to have that swagger. He had to have those muscles that looked like he really did eat a dozen chicken eggs everyday. He had to look like a self-centered, dimwitted, sexist villain with just one glance. And that is something Luke Evans never pulled off. That scene where Gaston talks to himself in front of a mirror should've been that "yes, this guy is freakin' Gaston" moment for me. Sadly, it was the opposite.

The set pieces were beautiful although sometimes annoyingly lit. It managed to bring about a certain sense of scale compared to the original animated one. The details were obviously a matter of great importance to the filmmakers, as the care that went into everything was undeniable.

The film boasts an impressive supporting cast as well. Actors like Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellen disappeared into their roles as they literally gave life to the cursed inhabitants of the castle. Each one of them delivered as they helped create a wonderful world inside a place that is supposedly devoid of hope and joy.

The musical numbers were great. Obviously some were better than the others - particularly Belle's opening song, Gaston's, and of course, the "Beauty and the Beast" number in the great hall. All of these song performances were worth the price of admission. But even these have flaws, as some of the shots looked weird and forced. Some pans and in-between frames were inconsistent and sometimes looked as though the camera was having a hard time keeping up with the choreography.

There was no way any of the live action sequences could ever compete with the perfectly drawn and framed musical numbers in the animated film. Still, you'd have to have a pretty black heart if you didn't enjoy those timeless songs being performed in a live action setting.

This movie was never going to live up to the standards of its animated counterpart. That kind of magic comes only once in a lifetime. But that doesn't mean that this movie is in any way less special.

This live action adaptation created a beautiful world and it told a timeless story. It was executed in a way that it paid tribute to the original but had the sense to play with certain aspects of it for a new audience. It was a vibrant, beautiful experience - which is the only thing you should ever want from a Beauty and The Beast adaptation no matter the medium.

More significantly, this movie proves that story matters - that it is the truly great ones that can withstand the test of time. People will love it in whatever form it appears in as long as the story is true to the source material. This film just cements what an extraordinary feat Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise, and his team of animators were able to achieve 15 years ago.

Criticisms about how this was a completely unnecessary adaptation will pop up as the main negative of this film. Understandably so; I'm not so naive as to dismiss those criticisms and claim them to be unwarranted. But the thing is, why would it be so wrong for this film to be made if its existence meant opening the door of this beautiful, timeless story to a whole new audience? Wouldn't reliving the magic once again be enough to accept this movie's invitation to be its guest?

P.S. The studio that produced the ending credits should be given a huge bonus. That was hands down the best end credits I've ever seen in my life. I still see the damn thing when I close my eyes.

About the author: Don Cabuhat

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