I’m going to just come out and say it… I don’t think the animated film of “Beauty and the Beast” is all that great. In fact, I’d say it’s probably my least favorite Disney princess film out there. It’s cute and has some great moments with some of Disney’s most memorable songs. Overall though, it’s extremely underwhelming. Mind you, I barely saw it for the first time almost a week ago, so perhaps seeing it for the first time through adult eyes tainted it.
With the release of Disney’s live-action adaptation of this film I can tell you I was mainly excited just to see Emma Watson in another movie. If you read any of the early reviews you’ll find that critics weren’t too thrilled with this film and in my opinion, those critics mustn’t have been paying attention at all to this film because the live-action version of this tale as old as time is not only a visual wonder, but it also manages to outshine its animated counterpart in every way possible.
Being one of Disney’s most well-known films, I don’t really need to bother explaining the plot. All you need to know is the film shares the same plot as the 1991 original… a young girl by the name of Belle (Emma Watson not only playing a spot-on performance, but also managing to look good in EVERY frame she’s in) stumbles upon a castle inhabited by a Beast (Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens). At first, she’s a prisoner who loathes the Beast but slowly over time she begins to find herself feeling something that wasn’t there before… love.
There was a lot that I liked about this movie and very little that I didn’t. For the most part, overall, I felt like this adaption improved upon every flaw the animated movie ever had. I imagine if you grew up with the animated movie it’d be hard just to realize how many flaws it really has and just how confusing the story line is due to the many plot holes it leaves us with. Why would an old woman curse an 11-year-old boy for refusing to let her into his home? Why was an 11-year-old living on his own with only servants? How did the entire land manage to forget they had a prince looking over them in just ten years? And why is it that one day the outside world is bright with sunshine and then suddenly it looks like it’s been snowing nonstop for years? What month are they in? How much time is passing? Those were just a few problems I had with the film when I was watching it.
In this updated version, each of those questions are answered and built upon in even more detail which I felt really helped make the story feel smoother. In addition to filling in the holes left behind by its predecessor, the movie also includes several different subplots to build off of and gives more detail to each character’s background. Belle and the Beast have always been the main stars of the story and they still are, which is how it should be. However, it’s nice to see that the writers decided not to treat the other characters as just, well…pieces of furniture who are only there to say something cute and dance on top of tables.
The performances are all dead-on and the producers of this film really lucked out with the talent they were able to bring into this film. Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen and Audra Mcdonald all manage to shine as their respective characters and lucky for us, Mcdonald is given plenty of opportunities to grace us with her voice. We don’t see any of these actors in their human form until the very end so as a result, we spend the entire movie only hearing their voices coming out of a CGI-generated character. Despite this, they still manage to bring a distinct personality to each of their characters and get us to care for them and not just because they are a walking, talking version of nostalgia.
The true stars of this film though are Watson and Luke Evans as Gaston. As Belle, Watson manages to makes her feel fresh and familiar all at once. This is the Belle that we all know and she still has a lot of qualities from her animated version that were a warm welcome. Out of every Disney princess, Belle has always been the most progressive and in this updated version we get to see more of that played out to greater detail. The most surprising thing about Watson’s performance was just how good of a singer she was. No, she can’t hit those Ariana Grande high notes and could never make a career out of it but still, she has a surprisingly lovely voice that fell just in the right range for her character.
Evans’s Gaston was easily my favorite character and I’d say he steals the show in every scene he’s in. As Gaston, he’s cocky and probably the biggest douchebag Disney has ever produced. Still, he manages to bring a certain charm to the character that you can’t help but enjoy him on screen and even when he is doing the most eye-rolling action or saying the vilest of words, you can’t help but crack a smile at him and finding yourself wanting just a little more screen time with him.
The most enjoyable aspect of this film though is what was also the animated film’s strongest point as well, which was the musical numbers. Disney manages to bring back most of their classic songs and even include three new numbers which I felt really added to the movie as well. The standout of the newest entries is easily a solo given to the Beast after Belle leaves him and he’s left to accept his fate. Just like in the animated film, the most enjoyable and strongest musical numbers in the entire film are “Gaston” and “Be our guest.” It’s movie-making at its finest and I’m willing to bet you’re going to have a rather difficult time not singing along and losing all care that you’re inside a theater with people around you.
Side note: The ballroom scene manages to be just as magical as it was in the 1991 film. They really take their time building up to it and when it finally happens I guarantee you goosebumps will being moving throughout your body and stay with you the entire time. The friend I went with is probably the manliest man I’ve ever met but even he managed to have a smile on his face the entire time this scene takes place. And if you shed a tear, don’t worry, you won’t be the only one who did… not talking about me, of course…
The only flaw I’d have to pick out was that some of the CGI wasn’t quite all there. At times, Chip looks a little off and sometimes the Beast’s face doesn’t have any kind of expression on it even when he’s showing a lot of emotion. Certain moments happened to look like they weren’t completed just right and maybe could have benefited from some more time to be worked on but even then, for the most part it’s not that glaring of an issue. Also, now that I think about it, I could have done without one of the newest original songs because it didn’t really serve much purpose to the film other than for the sake of having another musical number.
If you’re a die-hard fan of the original, l I imagine you’re going to spot more flaws than I did while watching this. Perhaps some of your favorite moments might not play out like you hoped and certain elements may fall flat. The new songs may not do it for you and the Cogswoth and Lumiere may not be as cute as their animated companions. If you can go in with an open mind though, I think you’ll find that this movie is a wonderful adaption of a movie you know and love with not only great performances, but one of the finest production designs I’ve seen in years.
The bottom line: “Beauty and the Beast” is a visually stunning, well-acted, thoughtfully written adaption of the animated classic. Truth be told, I think you’re going to find that you’ll be more than happy to be Disney’s guest and you may even find yourself paying it more than one visit.