Continuing the series of classic Disney movies turned to live-action films, the long-awaited “Beauty and the Beast” is filled with exquisite detail and new surprises that satisfy the newest or most nostalgic viewer.
“Beauty and the Beast” follows the same plot as the original Disney animated standard, with a selfish prince turned into an unsightly beast and a beautiful village girl who doesn’t quite fit in. Directed by Bill Condon of “The Twilight Saga,” “Dreamgirls” and “Gods and Monsters,” the film shifts from book drama to fairy tale classic with style.
Most notable is the intricate detail in setting and costuming. Although sometimes overwhelming coupled with quick camera panning, each piece of molding on the doors or stitch of golden thread invites the audience into the world of 19th century French aristocracy and village life.
However, the British accents and colloquialisms are inconsistent with the newfound significance placed on setting. Reclaimed by accurate historical details, cultural references and witty use of language also show the setting in ways that the 1991 animated film never touched on. Truly, there is “something there that wasn’t there before.”
The surprising new background scenes and narrative songs, as well as the surprisingly controversial LeFou (Josh Gad) as Disney’s first gay character, are seamlessly woven into the story plot. Diversity is joyfully abounding in this new rendition, making for ease of relatability and relevance to modern times.
Character interactions brought two inseparable duos filled with chemistry: Gaston (Luke Evans) and LeFou, as well as Lumière (Ewan McGregor) and Cogsworth (Ian McKellen). Excellent casting is clearly shown in the witty one-liners and meaningful loyalty of friendship.
Emma Watson brought a quiet grace and dignity to the outsider Belle. At first, she may seem emotionally restrained and detached from the character, but in times of high tension and climax Watson unleashes all of her emotional talents that had been building up in the background.
Belle is truly a scholar clothed in grace in this rendition. Confidently inventive and defiant, she is a role model and knight in shining armor to all young girls who will remember Watson as Belle rather than Hermione from the Harry Potter series.
However, the live-action version brings a chilling reality that is also all too relatable. Gaston’s unwanted advances, both physical and verbal, break the perfect nostalgia of a childhood film and send shivers down the spine.
Redeemed, the brilliant scripting and score both introduce new elements of the familiar tale and reminds audiences of the original adored traditional film. The well-known songs are set side-by-side with the new, and witty relevant lines couple the memorable lines.
The momentous animated Beast (Dan Stevens) disappointed with a smaller presence in this film, both physically and emotionally. With not as large of stance or power, the Beast is not intimidating to the fearless Belle or his company. Also, while there is new emotional background, the Beast never reached the sorrowful rage or abundant joy required for his character to develop.
Voices, however, of all duos in the film, are truly complementary and pleasing. With pressure on Watson to meet the indelible voice of the original Paige O’Hara, she delivers with a casual musicality that shows how natural Belle is in her narrative.
Significant symbolism is placed in heavy use of color in the castle setting, the costuming and the once-brushed-over sorceress. She expertly emerges as a key role in all relationships and plot development, reminding the audience of the irony behind certain moments and the deeper meaning behind them.
Themes are deeply explored concerning loyalty, unconventionality, mob mentality, pride and, of course, true love. Would any fairy tale be complete without it? The romance is infectious, and the love between not only Belle and the Beast but Belle and her father (Kevin Kline), Gaston and LeFou and between the house servants show the multifaceted ways to love and to be loved.
Intimate moments face-to-face with the CGI and actors reflect this between the characters and between the characters and the audience. The reality of childhood fairy tales coming to life invites the audience into their world, complete with relatable anecdotes and themes while still maintaining the nostalgia. A real story of love, daring adventure, courage, selflessness and inspiring individuality proves that the live-action “Beauty and the Beast” is a soon-to-be classic and not one to miss.