Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Beauty and the Beast (2017) Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, the live-action adaptation of the studio’s animated classic, brought the story and characters audiences know and love to spectacular life and broke box-office records. Beauty and the Beast features an extraordinary ensemble cast, including Emma Watson as Belle, Dan Stevens as The Beast, Luke Evans as Gaston, Kevin Kline as Maurice, Josh Gad as LeFou, Ewan McGregor as Lumière, Stanley Tucci as Maestro Cadenza, Audra McDonald as Madame de Garderobe, Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Plumette, Hattie Morahan as the enchantress and Nathan Mack as Chip with Ian McKellen as Cogsworth and Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts. For those who cherish the animated musical, the film can be played in sing-along-mode. Bonus features include a table read like only Disney would attempt and a look behind the scenes with the actors and music that bring this fairy tale to life.
Film (4 out of 5 stars)
Belle (Emma Watson) isn’t like the other girls in her village. She loves to read and has an inventive mind. Her independent streak has made her a bit of an outcast, but she still enjoys the life she shares with her tinkerer father Maurice (Kevin Kline). The handsome Gaston (Luke Evans) openly pursues her, but Belle shows no interest in becoming his wife. Belle may not be responsive to Gaston, but his loyal friend LeFou (Josh Gad) is always there to stroke Gaston’s ego.

Shortly after declining Gaston’s latest advance, Belle says goodbye to her father. He will return from the market in a day’s time, and Belle asks him to bring back a single rose. A day later, only Maurice’s horse returns and Belle is immediately worried. The horse takes Belle to the location he left Maurice and she learns that her father has been captured by a reclusive Beast (Dan Stevens).

Belle is unaware that the Beast is actually a cursed Prince. When an enchantress saw no love in his heart, she cast a spell. The Prince became a beast and the others inhabitants of the castle were turned into everyday objects. If the Beast can love another and gain their love in return before the last petal falls from an enchanted rose, the curse will be broken. Belle is completely unaware of the circumstances when she meets the cruel beast and his staff. To secure her father’s release, Belle agrees to be the prisoner of The Beast. The candelabra Lumiere (Ewan McGregor), Cogsworth the clock (Ian McKellan), Mrs. Potts the teapot (Emma Thompson) and her son Chip hope that Belle will end the curse and free them all.

Having seen the animated film so many times, I can’t imagine what it would be like to watch the 2017 film with fresh eyes. Disney was keenly aware that they were remaking a classic and fans would be outraged if they did not do it justice. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Emma Watson could sing. It is often hard to imagine a character like Gaston in real life, but Luke Evans is perfectly cast in the role. The live action version is a bit more fanciful than the animated version and characters were understandably altered.

Not all fans welcomed the changes, and certain groups were up in arms about the nature of Gaston’s relationship with LeFou. There were small things I would have changed, but overall the positives far outweighed the negatives. The ending was too sad for my taste, even knowing a happy ending was on the horizon. I choose not to nit-pick this film because it turned out far better than I had imagined.
Video (5 out of 5 stars)
Beauty and the Beast is near flawless on Blu-ray. The blue skies and green hills come to life. Fine detail is excellent and is particularly noticeable in the stitching and fabric of the costumes. The bright and sparkling scenes make the live action feel magical. The darker moments with The Beast in his castle are just as detailed. Skin tones are even and accurate. Edges are crisp. Interaction between live and computer generated characters is expertly timed and crafted. 
Audio (5 out of 5 stars)
Beauty and the Beast’s DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack offers a lossless experience. The music is incredibly important and is delivered with the appropriate weight and clarity. Echoes enhance spaciousness and the booming voice of the angry Beast is delivered to your living room with position placement and vigor. Dialogue and lyrics are intelligible and well focused in this excellent presentation from Disney.
Extras (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The Blu-ray contains several extras with the expected focus on the musicality of the film. The film can also be played with optional overture or sing-along mode.

  • Enchanted Table Read (13:31): An elaborate table reading of the script with a full singing/dancing production taking place. Includes the first performance of Gaston’s big number.
  • A Beauty of a Tale (27:09): This behind the scenes featurette offers cast and crew interviews. They discuss the music, challenges of a remake, the dynamic sets, actor chemistry and performances.
  • The Women Behind Beauty and the Beast (5:17): Emma Watson explores her character and the women who made the film possible.
  • From Song to Screen: Making the Musical Sequences (13:26): A look at the iconic songs and sequences “Belle”, Be Our Guest”, “Gaston” and “Beauty and the Beast”
  • Extended Song (4:08): The extended song “Days in the Sun” with introduction from Director Bill Condon.
  • Deleted Scenes (6:23 total runtime): Gaston Courts Belle, Bread and Jam for Agathe, Storming the Ice Gates, Lumiere Torches LeFou, Monsieur Toilette, Cogsworth Rescues Lumiere, Treacle for the Lasses, and LeFou and Monsieur Toilette Reunite with introduction from Bill Condon.
  • Making a Moment with Celine Dion (3:24) – Celine Dion discusses her involvement in the animated feature and the decision to participate in the new film without her husband.
  • “Beauty and the Beast” Music Video (4:02) – The Ariana Grande/John Legend video for the title song.
  • Making the Music Video: “Beauty and the Beast” – Just over two minutes devoted to making the video.
  • Disney Song Selection (33:10): Karaoke style versions of: "Belle," "How Does a Moment Last Forever" (Music Box), "Belle" (Reprise), "Gaston," "Be Our Guest," "Days in the Sun," "Something There," "How Does a Moment Last Forever" (Montmartre), "Beauty and the Beast," "Evermore," "The Mob Song," and "Beauty and the Beast" (Finale).
Summary (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Beauty and the Beast was a risky remake, which paid off for Disney. Many Disney fans hold the animated feature at the top of their list of favorites and they would be very upset and vocal about their disappointment in the live action remake. The supplemental features show that Disney took great time and care to bring Belle’s world to life. While the story telling wasn’t perfect, the film did live up to, and at times exceeded my expectations. The film is sweet and charming. The Beast and the other non-human characters truly come to life and mesh well with the live actors. The Blu-ray offers near perfect audio and video presentations and should be a part of any Disney fan’s collection. I recommend the film and the Blu-ray purchase.

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