It is a story that revolves around one enchanted rose, two lovers, and is considered by many to be referred to as “a tale as old as time”; most famously from the likes of lyricist Howard Ashman (who died 8 months prior to the release of the original animated classic), Angela Lansbury (Who was the original voice of Mrs. Potts), and the duo who sang the original title song, Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson. The original ‘Beauty and the Beast’ was an animated masterpiece that relied on beautiful animation, sweeping camera motions, and the energy of a classic Hollywood musical. It also went on to gain 2 Oscar wins (‘Best Music, Original Song – ‘Beauty and the Beast’, Best Music, original score), and 4 other Oscar nominations (including Best Picture, making it the first animated feature to achieve that category.) While this updated remake in Disney’s roster is visually stunning with its CGI effects that put last year’s ‘The Jungle Book’ to shame (At least in my opinion), the film also turns out rather clunky and doesn’t show us the energy that the original animated film had.
Emma Watson leaves her Witch robes for the iconic yellow dress in order to play Belle. I was unsure when I first found out that little Hermione could grow up to be the bookish dreamer and lover of fairy tales. Here, this Belle is given an injection of sympathetic emotion, inventive nature, and independent spirit to match the likes of her father Maurice (Kevin Kline), who is less of a goof preparing for a fair, and more of a caring book of wisdom to help her get through the trials of dealing with a small town that sees her as weird just for picking up a book.
The trouble begins when Maurice rides their horse, Phillipe into a dark and creepy forest (with wolves who feel like copy and paste/Photoshop versions of the ‘Narnia’ wolves.) in order to give Belle a rose she has always wanted since she was a little girl. He eventually ends up in an enchanted castle filled with inanimate objects and run by The Beast (a combination of a full-body suit and a CGI face portrayed by ‘Legion’s Dan Stevens, who has Robby Benson’s voice down to almost a T.) While getting a rose from Beast’s garden, he eventually gets taken in as prisoner.
Belle eventually discovers this when she is taken to the castle by Phillipe. From then on, she decides to take her father’s place after talking to the Beast. While there, she meets a wacky crew of objects who used to be human. Lumiere (Ewan McGregor), a candelabra with a French accent, Cogsworth, (Ian McKellen) a pompous clock who likes to live by the Beast’s rules, Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson channeling an old lady impression), a kind and caring teapot, her energetic son, Chip (Nathan Mack), a teacup with the energy of a skateboarder, Maestro Cadenza (Stanley Tucci), a composer who was turned into a harpsichord (and was only seen as a regular piano in the original film.), and his wife, opera singer Madame Garderobe (Audra McDonald), who was turned into a wardrobe with an over-the-top sense of Disney fashion, and Lumiere’s lover, Plumette (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who was turned into a dove-shaped feather duster for those hard-to-reach places.
The story of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is well-known. In case you weren’t aware, the concept is simple. A woman has to fall in love with a beast (vice-versa) in order to break the spell caused by an enchantress before the last petal falls off the rose in order for the beast to become a human. This concept had a moral lesson (“Don’t judge a book by its cover”, “You get what you give”), yet is the butt of jokes pertaining to bestiality. The movie, however, knows how unusual its concept is, and instead finds a way to update that flaw with the story.
What I liked about ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is the way its updated screenplay knows that the original animated classic was not perfect, and suffered from a few plot holes. This remake covered those holes in a way that ‘Cinderella’s plot holes were covered. I was impressed with the many updates it took to work as a remake. (Despite a filler scene involving world travel with the help of an enchanted map.)
One thing I enjoyed about ‘Beauty and the Beast’ can be summed up with two famous villain duos: Gaston and Lefou (Played in this film by Luke Evans and Josh Gad, respectively.). Evans’ portrayal of the narcissistic hunter who wants Belle to himself may not be as brutish and egotistical as the original character was, he and Gad’s LeFou have great comedic chemistry and their scenes shine through.
If you want a musical with energetic performances, I would recommend ‘La La Land’. However, if you want a fairy tale that is a nice blend of funny, touching, and fresh, I can recommend ‘Beauty and the Beast’.