The question of the day seems to be why did Disney feel it necessary to remake their classic story "Beauty and the Beast"? The two primary answers are first the one that Disney tosses out they to disguise their marketing intent: So that a whole new generation can get to know a wonderful fantasy. The second answer being the reality: The first film, produced in 1991, earned over $424 million on a $25 million budget.


It's about the money. Disney is betting that those little girls tenty-six years ago will be willing to bring their daughters to the new version which cost over $180 million to produce. Based on Disney's previous experience with princess/prince scenario, they can start counting the cash.


Director Bill Condon ("Dreamgirls", "Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn 1 & 2", "Mr Holmes") wisely cast a recognizable and likable princess in Emma Watson ("Harry Potter" series), a somewhat familiar beast in Dan Stevens (Downtown Abbey) a bunch of noteworthy supporting cast members including Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Luke Evans, Stanley Tucci, and Emma Thompson and sprinkled in just a handful of controversy. Voila - remake!

Very little about the story changes in that a popular but dubious princess (Stevens) is cursed when he selfishly disregards a hag's request. he is turned into the beast and will remain so until a woman who truly loves him comes along - provided it's before the last petal of a red rose falls off. All of his loyal servants are turned into various house appliances including a tea pot (Emma Thompson), a wardrobe cabinet (Audrey McDonald), a clock (Ian McKellen), a fancy feather thing (Gugu MBatha-Raw) and a teacup (Nathan Mack). They too are doomed to serve Beast with the same curse.


A local village girl, the loveliest in the land, Belle (Watson) is pursued by the village stud named Gaston (Luke Evans) will stop at nothing until she agrees to marry him. He is accompanied by his openly gay valet LeFou (Gad) who wants Gaston for himself, obviously. Belle is under the guardianship of her widowed dad Maurice (Kline) who is the village tinkerer.


Maurice accidentally winds up as a captive in the Beast castle because he stole a rose from the snow-covered garden. Belle, finds him and offers herself in exchange for her father. Beast accepts and imprisons her instead. Maurice makes it back to the village to tell what happened, nobody believes him and he is imprisoned again by Gaston and destined for the looney bin.

In the meantime, Belle and Beast get to know each other and start to like one-another. Naturally, Belle finds herself attracted to him because of his vast library of books and his hidden charms.


Very little is changed from Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont original story La belle et la bete; only tweaked and modernized. The tweaking of Lefou as a gay sidekick and the addition of another "queen" is facing some resistance from the far-right who think Disney went to far to attract a diverse market. They probably di, but as long as you remember it's all about making money, you can forgive the Mouse Factory.


The songs remain the same with Beauty and the Beast, and Be our Guest as the two highlighted songs. The CGI imaging is a bit shaky with more definition added to the characters and costuming than to the background. There are landscape scenes that are obviously CGI.


Empowing Belle as a more aggressive independent woman rather than a helpless maiden works okay only because Emma channels her Harry Potter experience into the character. Kline works well as her doddering dad, but Gad's LaFou is a little bit over the top as is Evans as his liege Gaston. Audrey McDonald voicing the wardrobe is brilliant as is Tucci's Maestro Cadenza.


Whether it is great or only good is moot as the placement of the film works well for Disney as "Moana" heads to DVD and the "Lego Batman Movie" starts trending down.


"Beauty and the Beast" is a serviceable remake of the 1991 animated blockbuster that will amuse those who grew up with the original and entertain their children - but is is far from Disney's best effort.   -- GEOFF BURTON