Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Long ago, a greedy and spoiled prince (Dan Stevens) was turned into a hideous beast by an enchantress whom he had wronged. He was given a mirror as his only means to see the outside world and a rose which symbolized true love. The prince must find someone to love him as the Beast before the last pedal falls from the rose or be transformed forever. It seems that all hope is lost for the Beast and his loyal staff, who also have been transformed, but when an innocent and kind girl named Belle (Emma Watson) steps into his castle, everything begins to change.
Obviously this movie is going to be compared to the greatness that was Disney’s 1992 masterpiece by the same name, but before I do that, I want to talk about this movie by itself. Let’s first talk about casting. I know many people who had issues with Emma Watson being cast as Belle, and I can’t argue there as I never fully felt a connection to her, but she does the job well and doesn’t screw things up. I also don’t have a problem with Dan Stevens as the Beast because he is the Beast for most of the movie and I don’t have to see his face! Speaking of the Beast, holy crap is he spot on! I can only guess that the same technology that they used in The Jungle Book was the same they used for the Beast as he looks great. However, for me, it was the casting, acting, and charm of the supporting cast that made this movie so wonderful. Ewan McGregor, Kevin Cline, Emma Thompson, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Ian McKellen, and Stanley Tucci are all amazing actors in their own right, but add them together where they get to be flamboyant and quirky, it’s even better! This movie wouldn’t be anywhere close to being as great as it is without them. I might have cast The Rock as Gaston since we know he can sing now, but that is splitting hairs at this point.
Ok, comparison time. As we all know, Alice in Wonderland, The Jungle Book and Cinderella came before this one in Disney’s live action series and Beauty and the Beast is the first time they went straight for the idea of matching the story as much as possible. All the songs are there, done brilliantly and there are even a few new songs. Many of the scenes are scripted straight out of the animated film to the point that even the on-screen visuals are the same. Surprisingly this is my only true negative of the film as I would have liked to see a little more autonomy from this version. Now, understand that this is a very minor quibble as this version is about 85% the same. They did make changes, but only minor ones as the big changes came in the form of additions rather than true changes. Belle has a back story now and we get to see a little more of Maurice which Kevin Kline makes us want more of! Beast even has a new song near the end of the movie. To sum it up, this version is the closest adaptation Disney has done yet to their animated versions, and some will love that and some will feel like they are just watching the same thing again.
Before I conclude, I want to address 2 things before I go. First, I want to give major props to the creators for the job they did on “Be Our Guest.” For those of you who haven’t seen this movie, just imagine the animated sequence in the 1992 film and turn that into live action. Not only does Ewan McGregor sing wonderfully, but the set piece and the choreography is really great! It was definitely the highlight of the movie for me. The 2nd thing I want to address is the crap surrounding “the first openly gay character” of LeFou. Josh Gad is a great talent in Hollywood and was cast perfectly for this role, but c’mon people. LeFou is not openly gay. In fact, he is more awkward than gay, and if he was gay, he doesn’t have a clue. This character is not openly gay, he is not in love with Gaston, and he isn’t anything to worry about (as if gay people were anything to worry about in first place…because they aren’t!). I don’t know what people sought to make such a big deal out of this.
At the end of the day, if you grew up watching the 1992 version, this movie MIGHT be something you don’t like because it is very close to that film, but if this is the first time seeing this story and hearing these songs, than this movie is faithful to what Disney did in the animated classic. The supporting cast is what makes this movie shine for me as I felt like I didn’t care much about Belle and Beast which could be because I knew how the story ends. Big thumbs up and this is a great movie for the family to see. Co-starring Audra McDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Hattie Morahan, Hayden Gwynee, and Nathan Mack.
8/10 Stars – Wonderful family adaptation of the 1992 animated classic that is true to the story with a few slight alterations (that you might see as good or bad).