It will probably come as no surprise that Disney’s live-action remake of “Beauty and the Beast” is one of my most anticipated films of the year, given that I am just such a Disney kid, and as I am such a huge fan of the original animated film. To be completely honest, the only other live-action Disney film that I saw was “The Jungle Book”, so my expectations were already high to begin with, and I have to say that I enjoyed every single minute that I had watching this film.
It’s pretty pointless to actually recap what the story of the film is about, as this is definitely “a tale as old as time”, not just because the original film was released in 1991, but because the actual story of “Beauty and the Beast” has been around since 1740, and has been retold in dozens of fairy tale story books.
The animated Disney film, which was released in 1991, came a year after “The Rescuers Down Under”, and was the Disney film right before “Aladdin”.
In the same vein as the 1989 classic “The Little Mermaid”, this film featured bright colors, great animation, and memorable musical numbers, with songs composed by Alan Menken and written by Howard Ashman.
This 2017 live-action adaptation managed to capture most of the original magic of the animated film, with captivating and gorgeous sets and costumes, iconic musical numbers, a loaded cast, great performances, additional songs, and added scenes and backstories that added depth to the characters and to the plot itself.
It was directed by Bill Condon, and stars Emma Watson as Belle and Dan Stevens as the Beast. They really pulled out the stops with the rest of the cast as they were able to get Luke Evans as Gaston, Josh Gad as Le Fou, Kevin Kline as Maurice, Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts, Ewan McGregor as Lumiere, Sir Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, Stanley Tucci as Maestro Cadenza, Broadway star Audra McDonald as Madame de Garderobe and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Plumette. It also featured two new songs that were sung by Celine Dion and Josh Groban.
This film definitely allows a new generation to enjoy this Disney classic, and it also hits all the right nostalgic notes for people like me, who grew up watching the classic animated film.
Before I go any further, I just want to say that I think this whole Le Fou controversy was blown up and hyped up too much. The controversy came as it was announced that Le Fou, Gaston’s sidekick, was written as a gay character, and this blew up the internet left and right.
I thought that the issue was blown up too much, and honestly, I think I’ve really never seen Le Fou as a totally straight character in the first place. However, I think that knowing this at the back of my mind made me even more conscious of Le Fou’s actions, and it made me think at times that they were heavy handed on it, but I would have also been fine not knowing that before seeing the movie, and coming to that realization on my own throughout the course of the film. However, this character point DOES make the story arc that Le Fou goes through in the film more meaningful, and where he is in the end makes more sense.
Now, before I go on to spoilers, please turn around if you have not seen this new classic yet.
I thought that the casting of this film was great, and on some parts, just perfect.
Emma Watson was a great choice to portray this iconic character, and from the moment that I heard of this casting, I was totally on board. I am also glad that she, just like the rest of the cast, sang their own parts, and in one instance, she sang live. I also loved the fact that just like a true bookworm, after the Beast told her that his massive library is hers, she stayed a little behind, giggled and did a little jump like a child at a candy store, which, honestly, is the same reaction I would have if someone gave me a library like that. (I also think no one would ever see me outside of that library ever again.)
Luke Evans was BORN to play Gaston, as he really does look like him. He was charismatic, annoying, and everything that I wanted him to be as the live-action version of Gaston.
Dan Stevens is definitely having a good year with his projects, and this film is definitely no exception to the rule. Stevens made me fall in love with the Beast or Prince Adam all over again, and I loved the little nuances that he gave to the Beast’s character, like when he was making a joke, or when he was pretending to gag because he doesn’t like “Romeo and Juliet”. I also like how he was more physical when it came to him being angry at Belle instead of outright just screaming at her like in the animated film.
Emma Thompson and Ewan McGregor definitely had huge shoes to fill as their characters pulled off two of the most iconic songs from the animated film- “Beauty and the Beast” and “Be Our Guest”, respectively. However, they both pulled it off well, and I was amazed at how faithful “Be Our Guest” was, in terms of the performance the magical objects gave to Belle, to the original animated film.
I loved that they added some plot and character points that weren’t there from the original animated film, because it added depth to both the plot and the characters.
Adding the the plot point that Belle would always ask for a rose from her father every time he went to market to sell his inventions, and him plucking one from the Beast’s garden, something that was in the original fairy tale, gave the Beast more of a reason to imprison Maurice than in the original film.
I also liked that they added a little bit more to the Beast’s and the magical object’s story. Here, it turns out that he ended up being a mean bully due to the fact that he wasn’t really treated well by his father after his mother died when he was a young boy, and whatever happened, well, it doesn’t look like it was anything great, as Mrs. Potts expressed regret that they turned a blind eye to what was happening. It made him, in the end, an even more sympathetic character, and it made more sense as to why he is the way he is.
Speaking of the magical objects, I liked how the walls would crumble and how the objects would become more object-like every time a rose petal fell. It gave them more of a sense of urgency to make Belle and the Beast fall in love with each other so that the spell would be lifted. Having some of the magical objects have real life spouses as some of the villagers only made their reunions at the end even more meaningful.
Making Belle an inventor like her father made a lot of sense, and the backstory about her mother also gave more depth to her character. I also like that they gave more of a reason as to why the villagers didn’t like her or her family (they don’t like change, particularly if women are the ones who become inventors and are educated), and having them be enchanted to forget about the existence of the castle also made more sense as to why they are afraid of it and the Beast.
As I said earlier, having Le Fou be a written as a gay character helped make his character development be more meaningful, especially when he turns on Gaston in the end after realizing that Gaston will always just look out for himself.
Making Gaston a soldier who has seen many battles also helped add to his character, and him leaving Maurice out on the open to be eaten by the wolves after getting frustrated that they couldn’t find the castle and Maurice’s refusal to him marrying Belle also gave Gaston more of a reason as to why he wanted him locked up in the insane asylum.
I also like that the Enchantress/Agatha, had more of a presence here (I called that Agatha was the Enchantress from the beginning of the film), and that transformation sequence was well done.
The music, and the added songs were really great, and all of the musical performances were great. (I didn’t expect Stevens’ voice to be that low!) I also loved how the scenes in Belle’s room had strains from the song “Home”, which was in the musical version of the film. Also, while I think that the musical’s “If I Can’t Love Her” was a more emotional song for the Beast, I also really, really loved “Evermore”.
The production design and the costume design of this film was awesome, from the village, to the castle, to Belle’s gold dress and ear cuff, and the intricate details on all of her clothes (that cape!), to all of the magical objects in the castle. If ever this film gets nominated, I do hope it’s for production and costume design.
My only nitpicks about the film, aside from the Le Fou controversy being blown out of proportion, is the fact that were some parts in the beginning of the film that I thought felt a little bit rushed. Like, I would have liked to see that slow build of the Beast stepping into the light and Belle’s reaction from then, but it did not deter me at all from enjoying this film at all.
In the end, this film was a delight to watch, not just for new fans, but for fans who grew up with this film, and had the “Beauty and the Beast” soundtrack on repeat to the point that they memorize every single lyric that the animated film had.
This was definitely a story worth retelling to a new generation of Disney fans and kids, and based on this, I am willing now to go back and finally watch the live-action “Cinderella”, and it gives me a lot of hope as to the other live-action films that Disney has in store for fans both new and old.
- The narration scene at the beginning.
- That transition from the castle to the village for the “Belle” opening number.
- Belle making a rope out of curtains and bed sheets in a bid to escape.
- The “Gaston” sequence. Loved all the dancing that happened there.
- “Be Our Guest”. I can’t believe that they managed to pull off having it be almost exactly like the one in the animated film.
- The Beast and Belle getting along, and Belle giggling like a child at a candy store when he told her that the library was hers.
- Garderobe dressing up Belle for the dance, and how she used gold leaves to add detail to her dress.
- The entire “Beauty and the Beast” sequence.
- “Kill the Beast”, and Mrs. Potts teaming up with Le Fou.
- THAT TRANSFORMATION SEQUENCE EXCEEDED MY EXPECTATIONS. That was my favorite part of the animated film.