Plot: What’s it about?
A few years ago Disney, or some studio execs at Disney, had a pretty good idea: take the animated classics that everyone knows and loves and make new, live-action films. And so we were graced with films like Maleficent, The Jungle Book and Cinderella raking in the cash. There was a bit of a misfire with Pete’s Dragon, but that’s ok. So the die was cast and Beauty and the Beast was next up. Given that the 1991 animated film was pretty much perfect in every way, this would be a hard one to top. What, if anything do they change? I mean, if it ain’t broke…For Emma Watson it was a chance to finally shed her Harry Potter character and for Disney, a chance to get another billion in the bank. It wasn’t a question of “will it work?” more like “how well will it work?”
If you’ve seen the animated version of the film, and let’s face it – who hasn’t, not a lot has changed here. We meet an arrogant prince (Dan Stevens) who’s given a specific amount of time to find true love (in his current beast form) or else he’ll be a beast for the rest of his life. His servants are also turned into strange household objects. We then move ahead some time and meet a young woman named Belle (Emma Watson) who feels a bit out of place in her small town. We then see Belle’s father, Maurice (Kevin Kline) get lost on his way to a fair. Eventually, he’s held captive by the beast. Maurice’s horse is able to travel back to the village and inform them what has happened. At this point, Belle decides to go find her father and ultimately, encounters the beast. Seeing as how the beast simply won’t release her father, Belle strikes a deal where she will trade places with her father. Indeed, that is what happens and Belle is now a prisoner. Several of the castle’s staff hopes that Belle will be the true love of the beast so not only he, but they too will be transformed back into their human form. We then follow their relationship as the film progresses. Belle doesn’t know the stipulations of the deal (she doesn’t know that the beast will turn into a human) and we hope things work out.
Admittedly, Bill Condon didn’t deter too much from the 1991 “source material”. Even some of the shots are essentially live action versions of the animated frames. But hey, it worked. It got rave reviews. It cemented Emma Watson as a box office draw (sans wand) and it generated a ton of money for Disney. There was little to complain about. Still, we have to ask if there really was a need for this movie. Yes, with The Jungle Book – that was a major improvement. But with more live action films coming (Aladdin to name one of my personal favorites), it just seems that they’re taking the easy way out. I’m really not trying to complain as the movie was enjoyable, but when so little was changed, it was like seeing a movie that you’ve already seen a dozen times before.
Video: How’s it look?
It’s not all the same as the transition from animated to live action does have some very obvious benefits. The included 2.40:1 AVC HD transfer leaves very little to the imagination. Broad, sweeping visuals really do give this film a more “grand” look and feel. Disney is also the only major studio to (as of this writing) not embrace the Ultra HD/4K format and this would certainly be a prime contender for an early entry. Then again, it’s hard to imagine it looking much better. The beast, nearly all CGI, looks realistic and lifelike. The hair, face and everything else really has a palpable texture to it. This is your typical big budget Disney film and it’s “beauty”-ful!
Audio: How’s it sound?
With Disney still not supporting Ultra HD/4K titles, their next generation sound is also lacking. While there’s nothing to really complain about with the included DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack, I can imagine that a Dolby Atmos mix might bump it up a notch. The songs sound great, crystal clear and the fill the room with ambiance. Vocals are rich and pure, surrounds are used extensively and effectively. In addition to the visuals that, as I mentioned, are “broad and sweeping” so too is the sound stage which really seems to stretch out and gives a feeling that you’re right there. And that’s the point, right?
Supplements: What are the extras?
There are a few different versions of this floating around and even some exclusive content. However, this is what’s available on the standard 2 disc Blu-ray/DVD combo.
- Beauty and the Beast Music Video – Ariana Grande and John Legend tackle the iconic theme song for the film.
- Enchanted Table Read – Pretty much that. This is a table read of the movie complete with singing and dancing and even some commentary by the crew.
- A Beauty of a Tale – Running nearly a half hour, this is the most robust supplement, but it’s also fairly typical with some behind the scenes footage, comments from the cast and crew and the like.
- The Women Behind Beauty and the Beast – We start off with an introduction from Emma Watson and some comments from Director Bill Condon about the females who took part in the film. I can’t help thinking that if this was focused on the men, some would consider it sexist.
- From Song to Screen: Making the Musical Sequences – Four musical numbers from the film are dissected:
- Be Our Guest
- Beauty and the Beast
- Extended Song: “Days in the Sun” – Condon gives us an introduction and this version, performed by Harriet Jones.
- Deleted Scenes – Eight total, with an introduction by Director Bill Condon.
- Gaston Courts Belle
- Bread and Jam for Agathe
- Storming the Ice Gates
- Lumiere Torches LeFou
- Monsieur Toilette
- Cogsworth Rescues Lumiere
- Treacle the Lasses
- LeFou and Monsieur Toilette Reunite
- Making a Moment with Celine Dion – Yeah, she’s still around and offers some comments on being a part of the original as well as this one.
- Making the Music Video: Beauty and the Beast – The title says it all – a behind the scenes look at the music video.
- Disney Song Selection – You can jump to your favorite song via this menu.
- How Does a Moment Last Forever (Music Box)
- Belle (Reprise)
- Be Our Guest
- Days in the Sun
- Something There
- How Does a Moment Last Forever (Montmarte)
- Beauty and the Beast
- The Mob Song
- Beauty and the Beast (Finale)
The Bottom Line
There’s really nothing to dislike with this live action version of the animated classic. It’s got everything that the audience wanted, but it still isn’t the same as the animated 1991 version. This Blu-ray delivers the goods both looking and sounding amazing. The supplements are a bit “been there, done that” but do provide some insight on the film. It’s tough not to recommend this one.