Beauty and the Beast Blu-ray review

When Disney first announced its plans to create live-action versions of its classic animated movies, it was accompanied by much wailing and gnashing of teeth from film fans who wondered why they were bothering. But with the provocative Maleficent, witty Cinderella and spectacular Jungle Book, the studio has shown a willingness to tackle familiar stories in refreshingly new and surprising ways.

Unfortunately, this live-action version of Beauty and the Beast doesn't have anything like the same impact. It's not just that the much-loved 1991 cartoon still feels fairly fresh in the mind; it's because that version had already offered a revisionist, feminist take on the original fairy tale.

With no other options available, all that director Bill Condon can do is produce a live-action tribute to the classic Disney 'toon, albeit a bloated one that expands on that version by around half-an-hour. But as none of the new scenes or songs stick in the mind, was it really worth the effort?

As for the cast, Emma Watson (Belle) and Dan Stevens (Beast) are likeable leads and can both carry a tune. However, the decision to make the CGI Beast look less beastly takes any real frisson of danger out of their early sparring.

The various enchanted objects that populate Beast's castle are still present and bring a host of recognisable voices to the film, but the elaborate revamps they have been given only serves to make them less expressive than their simpler animated counterparts. The film's one real success is Luke Evans' villain Gaston, a swaggering parody of macho idiocy who steals every scene he appears in.

If this all sounds rather negative, then it's worth stating that Disney's live-action Beauty and the Beast is not a disaster. But given the choice of which one to watch, we can't imagine anybody choosing it over Disney's superior 1991 animation.

Picture: Shot digitally using Arri Alexa XT Plus cameras, Beauty and the Beast has made a seamless transition to Blu-ray. A top-tier 1080p encode by any standard, the 2.40:1 frame offers a window into a world of fully saturated colours, intricately hewn textures, warm flesh tones and inky black levels. Sequences such as the Be Our Guest musical number are nothing less than a feast for the eyes and demonstrate a clarity and richness that most other discs can only dream of matching.
Picture rating: 5/5

Audio: Beauty and the Beast's DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix is every bit the match for its extravagant visuals. While the musical numbers are the real stars of the show, the 360-degree soundstage is active at all times, bringing locations like the crumbling west wing of Beast's castle to life through convincing use of the surrounds and a potent low-end effects.
Audio rating: 5/5

Extras: A fair array of extras includes an optional overture and 'sing-along' mode for the film itself; a look at the table read; a behind-the-scenes doc; a featurette highlighting some of the female crew working on the film; behind-the-scenes vignettes for four musical numbers; an extended song; eight deleted scenes; and two music videos.
Extras rating: 3/5

We say: A reference-quality Blu-ray presentation of a live-action update that is neither beauty nor beast.

Beauty and the Beast, Walt Disney, All-region BD, £25