How can a fairy tale about a girl with Stockholm syndrome become an instant Disney animated classic? The 1991 animated version of Beauty and the Beast has memorable songs, characters, and gorgeous animation is more than enough reasons why generations of people watch it over and over again. Unlike Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent, the recent remakes of Cinderella and The Jungle Book stick to their traditional Disney roots while modernizing it at the same time. The new live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast is certainly no exception.
Everybody knows the story. Belle (Emma Watson) is a booksmart, independent young woman living in the village of Villeneuve whose father Maurice (Kevin Kline) is a brilliant artist and tinkerer. While walking into town, war veteran Gaston (Lee Evans) tries everything he can to marry Belle, in spite of his arrogance. One day, Maurice is kidnapped by the Beast (Dan Stevens, Downton Abbey) and seeks refuge in a beautiful castle. Hearing the news, Belle flees to castle and encounters the staff—including Lumiere (Ewan McGregor), Cogsworth (Ian McKellen), Cadenza (Stanley Tucci) Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson) and Chip (Nathan Mack)—who have been transformed into various objects due to a spell that, if all the rose pedals fall, the Beast will forever be a Beast, and…you know the rest.
There has been controversy prior to the release of Beauty and the Beast concerning the portrayal of LeFou as a gay character. A movie theater in Alabama went as far as banning it altogether. While in Malaysia and Russia, the certification boards suggested young kids are not allowed to see the movie because of the “gay moment”. LeFou always had a thing for Gaston (not to mention the original having homosexual undertones as well). That said moment is very brief and does not hurt the quality of the film.
Director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Mr. Holmes) feels right at home here. He, along with screenwriter Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflowers, the upcoming Wonder), keeps the tone the same as the original featuring gorgeous sets and costumes, Alan Menken’s beautiful music (providing the classic songs we know and love and new, original songs), and colorful visuals. While everyone remembers the iconic song “Beauty and the Beast”, my favorite has always been “Be Our Guest”. Before I had doubts whether the visuals would come across as creepy, but I am surprised how the entire movie turned out. This particular music number improves upon the original (it oozes with color)!
I cannot imagine a better cast! Emma Watson has come a long way from her years of playing Hermione Granger in the beloved Harry Potter series. Here, she is the perfect actress to play Belle! While her singing is not out-of-this-world amazing (but not entirely awful), she breathes a lot of life into her performance. This movie gives more of a backstory of where she has come from. She knows a lot about books. She could easily get lost in the castle’s massive library. Stevens brings a lot of life in Beast (especially through the motion capture). He cannot be anywhere without her, particularly in one scene where he sings his heart out about his affections for her (“Evermore”—one of the movie’s original songs). McGregor and McKellen provide a lot of laughs, while Lee Evans and Josh Gad steal the show.
Beauty and the Beast has strong messages about what is on the inside rather than the outside. Families will certainly have a ball (no pun intended) laughing and being blown away by the looks of the movie. This is what magic is made of.