Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Reel Preview: Everything You Need To Know About BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

One of the most anticipated, yet curious releases of 2017 arrives this weekend, when Disney unfurls its latest adaptation of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. Here is everything you need to know about it…

What’s this all about? – BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is inspired by Disney’s 1991 animated film of the same name, which was an adaptation of the 1740 fairy tale. This version tells the story of Belle, a young girl who is taken prisoner by a fearsome beast in his enchanted castle.

Who is behind the camera? – This version is directed by Bill Condon, who has a long list of credits in Hollywood as a writer and director. He debuted as a screenwriter in 1998 for his own GODS AND MONSTERS, which earned him an Oscar, and he was nominated for his screenplay for the eventual Best Picture winner CHICAGO in 2002. He also directed KINSEY (2004), DREAMGIRLS (2006), THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 1 & 2 (2011, 2012), and MR. HOLMES in 2015. The screenplay for BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is written by Stephen Chbosky (RENT) and Evan Spiliotopoulos…who has many credits in Disney’s direct-to-video catalog.

Who is in front of the camera? – Emma Watson, who grew up before our eyes as Hermonie Granger in eight HARRY POTTER films, plays Belle. The Beast is brought to life via body suit with a CGI-enhanced face, and behind the fur and horns is actor Dan Stevens, who played Lancelot in NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB (2014), and also appeared in A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES (2014). Kevin Kline (DAVE) plays Belle’s father, Ewan McGregor (young Obi-Wan) plays the Beast’s butler who is turned into a candle, Ian McKellen (X-MEN, THE LORD OF THE RINGS), plays Cogsworth, another loyal servant who is turned into a clock, Stanley Tucci (SPOTLIGHT), as a harpsichord, and Emma Thompson (SAVING MR. BANKS), as Mrs. Potts; the head of the kitchen turned into a teapot. Luke Evans (Bard from THE HOBBIT) plays Gaston; an arrogant hunter who seeks to hunt down the Beast and marry Belle, and he is joined by Josh Gad in the role of a sidekick.

What else? – As in the 1991 version, this BEAUTY AND THE BEAST will be part musical. Celine Dion has signed on to perform a new song written for the film, and Ariana Grand and John Legend will remake the title track. Emma Thompson will also perform a version of the title track * Disney originally wasn't going to make the film a musical, but Bill Condon convinced them on the basis that the songs were just too good * Actor Ryan Gosling turned down the role of Beast to make LA LA LAND instead, and Emma Watson turned down the lead role in LA LA LAND to play Belle instead. Ian McKellen turned down the role of Cogsworth in 1991 * Composer Alan Menken, who scored the 1991 version, returns to make music for this version * Bill Condon had actors sing Hakuna Matata from THE LION KING (1994) at auditions to test their singing ability *

What to expect? – Fans of the 1991 version have been excited, yet skeptical about this film. After all, the animated version was an instant classic, and advanced animated films into the realm of legitimate cinema. People love that film, and Disney’s history may be working against them. However, Disney’s recent history may also help them. In recent years Disney has been successful in remaking their animated classics into live action, such as CINDERELLA, THE JUNGLE BOOK, and PETE’S DRAGON. In front of the camera, Emma Watson has always been a charmer, and the voice talent behind the talking cups and candles is very inspired. The talent behind the music is also very good, and the writing team has a long history of success with Disney. Director Bill Condon knows how to shoot a (ahem) beauty of a film, and he has that gentle touch in expressing his characters. We can expect a real charmer of a film here, and likely another tall feather in the Disney cap.


BEAUTY AND THE BEAST dances onto screens March 17th in standard, 3-D, and IMAX formats.

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