Let me give you a little back story. When the animated “Beauty and the Beast” premiered, I was 13 years old. I had transitioned into an average 90s teenage girl: feminist, angsty, deep into alt rock, with a lust for life, creativity busting out of me, and “a nose stuck in a book” at all times. I was not looking forward to watching a “princess cartoon” with my mom, kid sister and baby brother. But, I was 13, I didn’t have an option- I had to go. I walked in, with my Doc Martens and flannel…and fell completely, head over heels in love. Belle was feisty, smart, tough, an outsider who longed for more than what her tiny village could offer. Belle was me.
When the live-action Beauty and the Beast was announced, I was ecstatic. But, I was also worried because, well, how do you improve or change perfection and get something good? I mean, this movie means so much to me that I have seen the Broadway musical more times than I can count, own 2 complete Funko Pop Beauty and the Beast collections, 3 Enchanted Roses, 2 T-Shirts, 1 kids Belle gown, and an adult one (SHHHHH). So yea, my heart was heavily invested into this film and had very high expectations to be met.
So, 25 years after I had seen the animated film (don’t do the math), I sat with my 9 year old daughter ready to FINALLY see a live action creation of the movie that made me believe in magic, adventure and told me it was OK to want more. And….
I loved it. I was completely enchanted.
Bill Condon’s live action “Beauty and the Beast” gives us old school BATB fans everything we loved from the animation, and adds some modern touches, diversity (YAS) and so much beauty, that I literally am ready to pack up everything I own to go live on that set. I have vividly imagined the castle and the town, and I have seen it on stage, and I have to say that this set was stunning. The story, at it’s heart remains the same, also expands to be even more feminist, and gives us deeper insight and answer questions, like the long questioned what happened to Belle’s mom? (Can we answer this for EVERY Disney film from now on?) It also gives each character a fleshier background (the Beast’s parents! Mr. Potts! LeFou! Gaston as a war hero! SO MUCH THINGS!!) that fulfills every question you may have ever had about this story.
In the animated film, for the most part, Belle and the Beast were the stars of the show. In the stage play, The Beast and Lumiere tend to be the scene stealers (you have not lived until you see “Be Our Guest” on a professional stage), but for the live-action film, while Emma Watson and Dan Stevens are perfectly suited as Belle and the Beast (and I will dare anyone not to shed a tear during the ballroom scene and all it’s perfection), it is truly the work of Luke Evans and Josh Gad that steals this movie away. I mean, Disney, come on. These two need their own music filled, buddy movie. Their chemistry is radiating and I wanted to see so much more. This isn’t to say the rest of the cast doesn’t leave their mark- Ewan McGregor is fantastic as Lumiere, Sir Ian McKellen gives Cogsworth more personality than I’ve ever seen, Emma Thompson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Audra McDonald and Kevin Kline are all divine.
We can’t talk about Beauty and the Beast without talking about the music. Oh, the music… here’s where I get a little “eh”, while Emma is a fantastic Belle…her voice is no Paige O’Hara or Susan Egan. Not saying it’s terrible, but when you’re used to hearing certain soaring notes (and used to singing them a certain way), when they cut it short or change the note to suit Emma’s not-trained voice…it’s noticeable. But, not to the point where it removes you from the scene. As far as the titular track, Emma Thompson sings it just as sweetly as Angela Lansbury did, and yes, I cried both times. The new tracks penned by Alan Menken are wonderful and perfect additions to accompany this version of the story.
There were some slight imperfections of the CGI of the Beast, which I probably would have been able to forgive more, had I not seen the live-action “The Jungle Book”. I just don’t believe in this day and age that one movie can make wild animals come to life, but in another (by the same studio), they can leave certain parts looking cartoonish. I digress because really, Dan Stevens was so good as the Beast, that even when the CGI wasn’t up to par, I still believed in The Beast.
All in all… the love I have had for this story for 25 years (and counting) burns even more brightly, and fans of all ages will fall deeply in love with it. Even if they walk in wearing Doc Martens.
“Beauty and the Beast” is now playing.