“Beauty and the Beast” Film Review
The review below will include minor spoilers from Beauty and the Beast. Please read at your own discretion.
To take a beloved, animated classic and rework it as a live-action is no small feat. It must be done well, with care for the characters and story, and it must demonstrate respect to its predecessor. I believe this has been accomplished in the live-action Disney remake of Beauty and the Beast.
The film opens with the story of the Prince’s life, filled with lavish dances and having the village from nearby flock to his mansion. Through the well-known tale, we get the first set of new information that the curse included the neighboring village forgetting the Castle’s existence.
Afterward, we meet Belle, and Emma Watson has truly taken her for a whirl. Watson’s portrayal is free-spirited, optimistic, and intelligent. Her interactions with townspeople do not discourage her, and we get a better look at the small village life based on the size of the library. Watson’s Belle is more than a bookworm; she’s also an inventor (she creates a spin cycle for laundry!) and an aide to her father (Kevin Kline), who creates different knickknacks, including a beautiful music box featuring the two of them and Belle’s late mother.
While her father is away, Belle continues to thwart the arrogant Gaston (Luke Evans), who is set on making her Mrs. Gaston. Evans is walking perfection for the role as he admires himself in the mirror, ignores female admirers, and puts up with his sidekick LeFou (Josh Gad). Gad’s portrayal is well done, but I wish I hadn’t spent a majority of my time wondering when the “gay” moment would happen. His performance is fun and adds comedic value to Evans, just like in the original.
Then there’s the Beast (Dan Stevens), whom Belle comes to meet after her father Maurice attempts to pluck a rose from the garden to bring back to her. It’s the only thing she asks for every year when he goes out of town, and despite getting lost, he intends to come through on his promise, which gets him locked in the Beast’s castle. Stevens is angry, disheveled, and terrifying. The makeup and wardrobe take the animated Beast to the next step. I reckon it could be an Academy Award qualifier in the next year, or so I hope!
The backstories continue through the film, including how the Beast became the individual he is (his mother passed when he was young), and the inanimate objects blame themselves for not taking it upon themselves to sort him out. Stevens makes it easy to find a soft spot in your heart for the character as you watch him grow and come to mature for Belle. He finds ways to crack jokes, smile, and display a sensitive side in the second half of the film.
I must not forget the other stars, including Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Audra McDonald, Stanley Tucci, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. All make up an incredible ensemble that brings candelabras, clocks, wardrobes, teapots, and pianos to life. The visual and special effects on this film are stunning. The “Be Our Guest” sequence feels as if it is designed intentionally for 3D with patterns and colors that pop throughout the five-minute-long number.
The music is gorgeous. The film includes one song from the Broadway show, “Evermore,” while also debuting two new songs, “How Does a Moment Last Forever” and “Days in the Sun.” The popular hits “Home” and “Human Again” are missing, but “Days in the Sun” is a fair equivalent for “Human Again.”
In terms of singing, everyone performs well in this film, including Watson, where conversations about the use of auto-tune on her voice have been raising concern. At the deepest root, I believe Watson has a lovely voice, and it complements Belle’s aesthetic and presence.
You’ll learn more about Belle’s past (she’s from Paris!) toward the end, and you may even need a tissue or two for the final 15 minutes when it comes close to believing the Beast has no chance of breaking the spell. However, a tale as old as time, the results are the same.
It’s a beautiful film and worth seeing once in 3D and once not. Dare I say it, this version might become my new favorite, even though the original will continue to hold a place in my heart.