The 1991 classic Disney film is once again being reimagined, this time as a live-action musical starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens as the titular characters. Beauty and the Beast is a tale as old as time, but this new film brings a new life to the story, while holding true to all the magic of the original. For fans young and old, there’s a sense of enchantment that will leave you mesmerized even after the credits roll.
Finding herself bored of her poor, provincial town, Belle (Watson) longs for something different. The townspeople find her odd, always buried in her books, inventing things or assisting her father Maurice (Kevin Kline) with his art. However, despite her peculiar ways, she is the subject of obsession by the town stud Gaston (Luke Evans), who just won’t give up. When her father ventures out of town and gets lost in the woods, he seeks shelter in a castle off the beaten path. He soon discovers the castle is home to the monstrous Beast (Stevens), that locks him away.
When Belle discovers her father is being held prisoner, she sacrifices her own freedom to save him. Soon finding that the castle is alive and quickly befriends the various servants who have been turned into household objects by a spell. While planning her escape she grows to learn that the Beast isn’t as terrifying as he seems and instead sees that years of solitude have only made him grow to be more cold. Becoming more aware of their commonalities, the servants hope that Belle will teach The Beast to love and forever break the curse before it’s too late.
Visually, this film is stunning. From the moment you see The Beasts castle (replacing the iconic Cinderella’s castle) in the introduction, the nostalgia sets in. The beauty of the small french village, the impressive set designs and costuming – every detail is perfect. The more CGI-heavy moments do not disappoint. Watching a more realistic version of “Be Our Guest” will have you grinning from ear-to-ear.
Seeing characters like Lumière (Ewan McGregor) and Cogsworth (Ian McKellen) with such meticulous detail was refreshing from the early 90s animation we grew to love them as. The filmmakers subtly changing them to reflect a more realistic French style, most noticeably with Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson) and her son Chip. However, the root of the animated film and its characterizations of each are not lost.
Casting for this film was spot on for every one of the main characters. Evans does the impeccable job of bringing Gaston to life, “for there’s no one as burly and brawny”. With Josh Gad as his sidekick LeFou, which couldn’t have been a more perfect pick. The supporting cast of magical characters were just as similarly impressive, even including a new character Maestro (Stanley Tucci), who now resides as a harpsichord in the castle. Then there is Belle, portrayed by Emma Watson who I think captures the characters strength and emotion wonderfully.
While I’d love to say this movie had no imperfections, I’d be remiss if I didn’t tackle a few things that were bothersome. Things that no amount of nostalgia could excuse and seemed to only be there to establish its difference from the animated version.
The main musical numbers remained true to the originals and proved very difficult to not bust out and sing along. However, it seemed as though the filmmakers didn’t think the movie was enough of a musical and proceeded to add more to it. The new songs just couldn’t hold their own against the beloved classics. There is a new, short song for Maurice and the Prince as a child. Which seemed to be more filler than anything. We also get a pretty awkwardly drawn out ballad from The Beast as he runs about his castle. They were unnecessary and, perhaps hindered by profound bias, seemed completely lacking in the uniqueness the original songs have.
Another moment that was lost within itself was a wondrous journey The Beast takes Belle on with the help of a magical book bestowed to him by the enchantress. It can take you to any place your heart desires, and for Belle, it was Paris where she learns more about her mother. It was a tender moment at first that aided in her relationship with The Beast but by the end of the scene, I felt the point had been missed.
For fans of the original, and Disney in general, you will not be disappointed by this magical retelling. What made it stand apart from its animated predecessor was a deeper back story for The Beast, which helped solidify his connection with Belle. While there are couple things that weren’t needed, the core of this story is left untouched. The attention to detail in every character and set dressing is enough to impress even those who are not Disney fanatics. It was so enjoyable to see these characters come to life one more time and it was truly a breathtaking experience.
Beauty and the Beast is in theaters March 17th