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Beauty and the Beast (2017) (Blu-ray Review)

2 Jun, 2017 By: John Latchem

Street 6/6/17
Box Office $501.48 million
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG’ for some action violence, peril and frightening images
Stars Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Audra McDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nathan Mack, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson.

Disney’s 1991 Beauty and the Beast is often cited as the crowning achievement of the studio’s animation renaissance of the 1980s and 1990s. Indeed, on its path to becoming the first animated film to earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, Beauty and the Beast was hailed for its artistry and musical storytelling.

A quarter-century later, with advancements in computer-generated visual effects inspiring Disney to remake or reimagine its animated classics as live-action blockbusters, it was only a matter of time before the House of Mouse got around to Beauty and the Beast.

This new Beauty and the Beast is mostly the animated movie in a live-action form, with a few new songs, a few new scenes, slight adjustments here and there, and some deeper exploration of the characters to explain some of the ambiguous plot elements of the original. However, the Beast still doesn’t get a real name (though, according to some old tie-in products related to the legacy of the original film, his name is Adam).

It should be noted that this is not an adaptation of the Broadway version, and no songs from the stage musical are included here. However, there were some new songs written specifically for the movie.

Some of the slight changes involve adding alternate lyrics back into the old songs from when they were originally written by Howard Ashman before he died. His music partner, Alan Menken, returned to score the live-action film, which definitely helps maintain the flavor of the original. It’s part of director Bill Condon’s master plan to preserve as much of the old film as possible in the translation (even if he couldn’t resist an obvious Sound of Music homage during the “Belle” reprise).

Emma Watson makes for a dynamic Belle, Luke Evans is a charismatic if dastardly Gaston, and Josh Gad hams it up as LeFou. The supporting cast doesn’t leave much room for complaints and the elaborate staging of the musical sequences is very much true to the spirit of the original film, enhanced by some specatular visual effects splendor.

The end result is a nostalgia-fest through and through. Those who loved the animated version will no doubt enjoy this fresh take on it, and younger viewers will eat it up just as their counterparts in the previous generation did the original.

The musical numbers have been isolated on the Blu-ray through a “Disney Song Selection” function that lets viewers watch just the songs in a 33-minute sequence with sing-along captions.

Additionally, four “From Song to Screen” featurettes running about 13 minutes cover the making of the sequences for “Belle,” “Be Our Guest,” “Gaston” and “Beauty and the Beast” from costume to choreography to visual effects.

The making of the movie as a whole is covered in the 27-minute “A Beauty of a Tale,” in which the cast and filmmakers praise the production and how much they loved the original. Some clips from the animated version are spliced in for good measure.

A separate five-minute featurette puts the spotlight on the women working behind the scenes to help bring the film to life.

A 13-minute “Enhanced Table Read” offers footage from one of the cast’s initial get-togethers to read the script aloud, which looks like a fun time.

Also included on the Blu-ray are six-and-a-half minutes of deleted scenes, which provide some interesting character moments that inform on the film’s larger story, including one in particular involving Belle's interaction with a key character. In addition, Condon presents an alternate cut of the “Days in the Sun” sequence detailing some of Beast’s childhood history; Condon re-shot the scene with new actors after test audiences were confused by how similar they looked to other characters, so the original version is presented here.

In the three-and-a-half-minute “Making a Moment With Celine Dion,” the international superstar reflects on her role with the original film singing the radio version of the title track (with Peabo Bryson), what that did for her burgeoning career, and the emotional journey she took to return to record “How Does a Moment Last Forever” for the end credits of the new version. 

Wrapping up the bonus material is a music video for the re-recorded “Beauty and the Beast” title tune, this time with Ariana Grande and John Legend. Just for good measure, there’s a two-minute making-of featurette for the music video.

About the Author: John Latchem

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