After succeeding with Cinderella and hitting the jackpot with The Jungle Book, Disney’s live action lineup went with one it’s true classics. Back in 1991, Beauty and the Beast became the first animated film nominated for Best Picture, combining unbelievable new animation technology with maybe the greatest assortment of music and songs put to screen. The film won two Oscars, both for its music; Best Score and Best Original Song (Beauty and the Beast). It had 3 (!) song nominations. Disney’s new live action Beauty and the Beast is exactly what fans of the 1991 animated classic could hope for. The film directed by Bill Condon maintains all the magic and charm, while following very closely to the narrative of its Oscar winning forerunner.
I need to discuss the opening prologue because I felt this improved on the animated film’s introduction, and addressed a lot of the critiques people have especially in modern YouTube culture. For example, in the original, the prince was only 11-years old when he’s cursed. That always bugged me. Here we meet a greedy young adult prince, hosting lavish Louis XVI-style parties who mockingly dismisses a beggar woman, who of course ends up being an enchantress. We learn more about Beast’s childhood throughout the film, as well as more of Belle and Maurice’s (Emma Watson, Kevin Kline) backstory.
These little moments are only noticeable to older audiences, and I feel help empathize with the characters. The effects are fantastic and once Belle (Emma Watson) is in the castle, it’s the effects that take center stage. Dan Stevens is surreal as Beast. According to EW, Stevens basically had to perform the role of Beast twice, once in a full body motion capture suit on stilts, and then again from the neck up, so his face could be digitized. Between this film and his starring role on FX’s Legion, 2017 is the year of Dan Stevens so far! When not taken aback by the amazing effects, it’s of course the music that commands the attention of the audience, and my daughter and I whispered whole verses and songs to each other. And there are new songs here by the award winning collaborators Tim Rice and Alan Menken including “Evermore” sung by Beast, which felt like it was cut and pasted from Moulin Rouge or Les Mis… both ironically, taking place in France.
I loved it, but that was obvious. I was 9 when I saw the original and I’ve memorized the soundtrack for 25+ years. So let’s get to the important demographic; the kids. Charlotte, my 6-year old sat with me holding my arm for the first 90-minutes and spent the final fourth of the film on my lap. I was a little concerned about the 129-minute run time, especially with 15 minutes of previews, but she was rock solid, singing along with her favorite songs “Belle” and “Be Our Guest.” When I told her that LeFou (Josh Gad) was also the voice of Olaf in Frozen she was ecstatic. Her favorite character is Belle of course, but she REALLY didn’t like Gaston (Luke Evans) and even told me that his death was her favorite part… grim huh? I guess that means Evans did a hell of a job if a 6-year wants him dead!
She said it was “awesome” and added that she’d agree to stay with the Beast to save me because “I want to be just like Belle. All I need is a beautiful yellow dress.” Even as a youngster I admired Belle since she isn’t the typical Disney princess cliche. She was a free thinker, intelligent, and was able to see through people’s exteriors and see the beauty inside. If my daughter uses Belle as inspiration, I’ll be happy.
What else needs to be said? Beauty and the Beast was an enchanting movie theater experience, one that is hard to stay silent in, as most know the songs going in. The actors sing the songs well, adding their own twists, and overall the acting is fantastic. Emma Watson shines as Belle, and she is just primed to be a monster star. Dan Stevens can do absolutely no wrong and the supporting cast was outstanding, especially Ewan McGregor as Lumiere. It is pure Disney magic that adults and kids will love together and watch multiple times.