Beauty and the Beast wasn’t my absolute favorite Disney movie as a kid, but after seeing the live-action version I have a newfound appreciation for it. Beauty and the Beast teaches the importance of being able to see the good in people especially when it’s difficult. This is a beautiful story that has proven itself quite timeless as a result. The casting is great, the musical score is even more beautiful than I remember, and each frame looks like it came straight from a storybook.
Belle (Emma Watson) is a beautiful young woman who doesn’t fit in with anyone in her small village. She is a voracious reader and dreams of life beyond her small hometown, much to the annoyance of her neighbors. When her dear father Maurice (Kevin Kline) goes missing, Belle sets out to find him only to discover that he has been taken prisoner by a mysterious beast. Her life is completely changed once she comes to know and love the horrifying creature.
Even though the movie is titled Beauty and the Beast, it is the “beauty” who shines the brightest in this film. My favorite thing about the character Belle is how fearless and independent she is in this adaptation. In the very opening number we see how different she is from everyone else around her. The villagers call her odd, strange, etc. simply because she is well-educated and we never really see this upset her. When she attempts to teach a young girl in the village how to read, the innocent act is met with outrage and we see Belle handle that in stride too.
When the casting was first announced months ago, I thought that Emma Watson was a smart choice. After actually seeing the movie I cannot say enough good things about her in this role. As Belle, she is completely charming and a joy to watch onscreen. Feisty when needed, kind when it matters and brave when it’s hardest-she is a great role model. Not just for girls, but for everyone.
Dan Stevens‘ beast gets a much broader backstory in this adaptation. Like Belle, his mother also passed away when he was a small child. Unlike Belle, his father was a very cruel man who mistreated him. Knowing this about him was meant to play into the idea that he is deserving of sympathy, which is an interesting addition to the classic I think.
The facial expressions, movements, and deepened voice are consistent with a creature who is part animal part human, but there wasn’t anything too memorable about the beast visually (save the horns maybe). This might be due to the fact that the beast was done completely with CGI and motion-capture technology. It’s nothing innovative, but it works.
The supporting cast is wildly talented and I thought that they were all welcome additions to the cast. Obviously, they supply only their voices for a majority of the film since they each turn into inanimate objects. The beloved candelabra Lumiere is voiced by Ewan McGregor and the cantankerous Cogsworth by Sir Ian McKellan. A lot of the humorous moments in the film were a result of their bantering back and forth.
Emma Thompson voices/portrays the beloved Mrs. Potts and she is a very calming and rational voice, particularly for Belle. There is also the introduction of new characters: a singing wardrobe Madame (Queen Audra McDonald) her husband Maestro, a decorated piano (Stanley Tucci) and the flirty feather duster Plumette (Gugu Mbatha-Raw).
Gaston, the self-absorbed and slightly delusional war hero, is portrayed by Luke Evans. He is so good in this role it’s uncanny. You’ll find yourself despising him, though he manipulates the entire village into practically worshiping him. As a would-be suitor for Belle, he is representative of everything she stands against. His side-kick Le Fou is played by Josh Gad and he too provided some laughs as the wacky underling who hangs on Gaston’s every word!
I think that the one thing that brings the entire film seamlessly together is the magical score composed by Disney legend Alan Menken (Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules, Pocahontas, Tangled…and a slew of others!) In my personal opinion Beauty and the Beast features some of his best work and I was overjoyed to see that none of it was tampered with. There is the addition of a couple of new songs and though they don’t have any nostalgia attached to them, they fit in nicely.
The costuming and imagery is all breathtaking. Everything looks so whimsical and magical and I felt that same wonder I experienced as a child when I watched a Disney film. I know that there has been division amongst critics and I really don’t understand it. Instead of trying to create some new ambitious take on a beloved classic, Disney took a much more subtle route and kept the elements that so many of us enjoy, managing to use current technology and make a few additions in the process.
We’ve seen so many awful reboots in the last couple of years that this for me was honestly a breath of fresh air and I felt like I gave a sigh of relief before I left the theater. If this and last year’s Jungle Book are any indication, Mulan and Aladdin may be safe after all (crossed fingers).
Beauty and the Beast definitely charmed me and I think that you will like it too! It’s currently in theaters. I recommend you stay for the mini montage that rolls after the close of the film. It’s pretty cool! 🙂
Directed by Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Chicago), written by Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos (based on the tale by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont). Stars: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Emma Thompson, Audra McDonald, Stanley Tucci, and Sir Ian McKellan.