Movie Review: Beauty and the Beast
By Mollie Jo Swendrowski
Full disclosure: I like Disney.
Ok...I love Disney.
Ok...I am an adult who is a Disney fan.
Ok...fan MIGHT be an understatement. I am an only child who was raised in the glory days of the Disney Renaissance as well as a former Walt Disney World cast member who still goes on Disney trips at least twice a year.
And the answer to your next question is no, I do not have children.
I can not help myself. The magic gets to me and...
...embeds itself in every fiber of my being. Whether it is visiting Walt Disney World and seeing the real turrets of Cinderella Castle growing closer from the window of the monorail, or going to the movies and seeing the turrets of the castle grow larger on screen in that iconic opening shot, I get weepy.
Go ahead, judge me. I’ve heard it all.
A current trend for Disney is to make live action remakes of their films, including Cinderella (my favorite princess- I know you were dying to know) and The Jungle Book. While both of those were wonderful in their own right, both drifted further from comfort of their original counterparts than I would have personally cared to see (I could go into details on both, but we don’t have all day). This made me nervous for the live action remake of Beauty and the Beast that Disney announced a little over two years ago.
The animated version is one of the films I grew up watching, a crucial part of that Disney Renaissance. There was even a birthday party in my youth completely themed around Beauty and the Beast-in true 90’s fashion with tablecloths, plates, napkins, balloons, cake, AND my outfit. I’ve watched the stage show version at Walt Disney World countless times, eaten at the restaurant inside the Beast’s castle there, and also have seen the Broadway version when it was on tour. What were they going to do to this classic staple of my childhood?
Two years ticked by with casting announcements, sneak peeks, and trailers. Finally it was time to see it with my own eyes. I recruited my best friend since age five (another Renaissance baby) to go with me, and while we were both thrilled to see it, it was hard to not feel a sense of trepidation.
All the worry was for naught. It was, for lack of better words, magical.
Much like the castle in the film, I was enchanted the entire time. Disney outdid itself with this movie.
The special and visual effects were stunning. The blend of real and fantasy could not have been more perfect. The enchanted objects in the castle seemed as if they could jump off the screen and into your lap, but the real accomplishment for this film was actually not the special effects, but the casting.
Emma Watson brought an even more fierce independence to Belle by making her not only a bookworm, but an inventor like the character of her father in the original. I am such a sucker for a strong female lead and Watson is no stranger to that role. The only flaw in this casting is that Watson is not a singer by trade and while she sounded lovely, Paige O’Hara set the bar high for me in the animated version. Other than that note, she introduced Belle to a new generation of young girls and I was thrilled with her portrayal.
As well as a strong female lead, I love a great period drama, so Dan Stevens (who played my crush Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey) cast as the Beast was a huge selling point for me. Beast was brought to life with a combination of CGI and motion capture technology (think Avatar) and Stevens shone through the fur in every scene. He also was able to showcase his singing with a new song called “Evermore” and it was one of the most moving parts of the whole film.
For me the real stars were the supporting cast. Luke Evans made the vain and cruel Gaston even more vain and cruel (which I didn’t think possible) and Josh Gad gave his sidekick LeFou a moral compass as well as humor and something a little more (I won’t spoil it for you). Their chemistry rivaled the chemistry between Watson and Stevens, and the song and dance sequence “Gaston” in the pub was an absolute showstopper and highlight of the entire movie for this Broadway lover.
Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellen gave life to the candelabra and mantel clock dynamic duo of Lumiere and Cogsworth, who were every bit the odd couple you would expect. Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts, Audra McDonald (major swoon alert-her voice is incomparable) as Madame Garderobe, Stanley Tucci as Maestro Cadenze (a character not seen in the original), and newcomer Nathan Mack as the adorable Chip make up the main enchanted inhabitants of the castle. Considering most of the movie is only their voices, they each gave the performance of a lifetime as normally inanimate objects.
Not to be forgotten is Kevin Kline playing Belle’s father Maurice, who gave some of the best lines of the entire film. My best friend and I could not help but laugh at his dialogue when he was lost in woods as it was reminiscent of us being lost together.
What I truly loved and appreciated was that every bit Disney added to this remake only enhanced the original story. We are not only introduced to more of Belle’s history, but the history of the Beast and the people that live in the castle and why they still seem to care for the man who caused them to turn into household objects. Even the dialogue matched the original in most scenes which caused this nerd heart to overflow with happiness.
If you have any sort of affinity for Disney, go see this movie. If you don’t really have any affinity for Disney, but love a great film, go see this movie. If you just really like movie theater popcorn, go see this movie. It is a tale as old as time that does not disappoint.
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