Tale as old as time. Song as old as rhyme. Except told with freshness and flair.
“Beauty and the Beast,” the live-action retelling of the animated classic, hit theaters March 17th, earning $700 million worldwide and making Emma Watson, who plays Belle, on track to be the highest-earning female actor of 2017.
The movie tells of a young prince (Dan Stevens) and his servants who fall under the spell of an enchantress, turning the prince into a beast and his servants into furniture and household items. Belle, a spirited and fearless village girl, takes her father’s place in the castle as the Beast’s prisoner and begins to draw the cold-hearted beast out of isolation where the two learn to love each other despite their appearances.
The movie begins with an opening musical number, in which we see how the prince dooms himself and his castle by refusing the enchantress, disguised as an old hag, shelter for the night. The beginning provides more clear context than the animated movie, which only shows a scene of glass windows telling the backstory of the prince.
The costumes and makeup of the prince, lords, and ladies make the scene much more dramatic. The tempo increases as the maidens fight for the prince’s hand by dancing. This allows for a sharp contrast to when we see Belle in her village.
The scenery in the village accurately represents a town in 18th century France, while the scenes in the woods and the castle add a mystical fairy-tale effect to the movie. When she walks through town as the people sing of her peculiarity, she seems free in her values and beliefs. Watson portrays Belle as an ideal modern-day woman, in which she is not afraid to show herself to the world. In the remake, Belle is an inventor.
Overall, Watson is the perfect fit for the character. She plays Belle as someone who is not afraid, especially in the worst of situations. Director Bill Condon did a exceptional job of constructing this image when we see Belle fearlessly riding on her horse with her dress on, going to save the Beast.
The added scenes in which we see Belle’s past adds more depth to the movie. Belle and the Beast visit Belle’s hometown, which brings up awful memories as she remembers her mom dying from the plague. The emotion Watson and Stevens are able to convey makes their chemistry and connection stronger throughout the movie. However, when the Beast returns back into the prince, it seems as if that connection disappears. It reminded me of the opening scene before the arrogant prince is transformed. The chemistry between the two is gone. Since the beast’s makeup was so familiar, when he turned back into the prince, I could only picture the selfishness and arrogant qualities of the prince at the beginning of the movie.
An unnecessary aspect of the movie is LeFou (Josh Gad). He provides little comedic relief and does not seem to add any depth to the story. He only reminded me of Olaf from Frozen, and it was not obvious to the audience that he was a gay character. This was a huge controversy before the release date, and Disney made it seem like it was a major part of the plot. When watching “Beauty and the Beast,” it was not clear that LeFou was gay. I think Disney noticed they could publicize on it so they released the fact to the press. LeFou is simply a less arrogant version of Gaston and does not contribute much, other than supporting Gaston, the main antagonist.
The best scene of the movie is the ballroom dance scene. Watson wears a more simple dress than in the original, that represents a more modern day woman. Lead costume designer Jacqueline Durran designed the dress to portray Belle as the unique and peculiar character that she is, rather than a stereotypical princess. The dress accurately depicts the personality and values Belle upholds. The ballroom scene is simple, with solely Ms. Potts singing as Watson and Stevens whirl around the room. The scene is reminiscent of the childlike wonder brought by the animated film.
Finally, beloved characters, like Lumiere (Ewan McGregor), Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson), and Cogsworth (Ian McKellen), are displayed very human-like and provide support for the world Condon created in the live-action story. The special effects in creating these characters personify them allowing for the audience to connect to them and their personal stories. They are so familiar from one’s childhood that they provide comic relief and memories of the animated film, yet it is emotional seeing them almost become stone antiques near the end of the movie. In addition, the soundtrack with songs “Be Our Guest”, “Something There”, and “Beauty and the Beast” transitioned smoothly from the animated picture to the live-action film.
Despite some of the minor flaws in the film, it is still quite entertaining and I would recommend it to all ages. “Beauty and the Beast” is a classic and takes the audience on a trip back to the fairy tales from their childhood.