Emma Watson dazzles with grace and ferocity as the soft-spoken heroine in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, even without the pretty dresses.
From the very start of Beauty and the Beast, with the Disney introduction of the Sleeping Beauty iconic castle logo, you could tell you were in for something magical. Not so much in the witch and wizard battle kind of magic that pervades the Harry Potter universe, despite having a Hogwarts alum in this movie. No, this was a very different, very special, very beautiful kind of magic that enchants people’s hearts to love.
Let me explain further.
I was already enchanted with the original Disney animated version of Beauty and the Beast. So were many others. So many that the film actually garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, a first for an animated movie. To say that there was a lot to live up to for this live-action version was an understatement. The movie was an ultimate success in more ways than one, hitting major milestones for Disney and animation. So yes, there was pressure from fans, from the studio, from anyone and everyone invested.
And do I think that Disney succeeded in overcoming that pressure? As a person who watched the original and majored in music, I can honestly say that yes, they succeeded in overcoming the pressure. Did the movie actually succeed in besting the original? Well, that’s arguable.
Let me first off say that I did enjoy the movie. I enjoyed it very much and was in constant awe of the set design and the beautiful set pieces and costumes and cast involved. It was all very, very gorgeous to say the least. The little, provincial town that Belle and her father lived in was practically a carbon copy of the animated one. The Beast’s castle both exterior and interior, was phenomenal, even if much of it was digitized. Although I’m not totally familiar with the French outfits or style of that time, they seemed rather authentic. With all that, it was all quite grande and impressive for the fans.
The music was also quite lovely, as most of the songs were from the original version as well. However, the singing in some of the songs might have lacked the verve that was felt in the original. Before you get into a tiffy about what I just stated, please note that in no way meant I thought they did a terrible job. They all did a great job in performing the songs to the best of their ability. That said, there were a few songs that I just couldn’t help but compare them to the original film and found I liked the original slightly better.
Still, the impressive singing abilities of Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad and the rest of the cast were done very well. I only claim my opinion on the matter and don’t speak for anyone else in regards to anyone’s singing.
The thing about comparing the original to the animated is that Disney was almost begging us to do so, creating some scenes to look exactly as they did in the animated version. With it done that way, there was going to be some nitpicking done. But in all honestly, even with some nitpicking—like Belle’s slow walk through the crowds of people during the song “Belle” made her look more languid than it probably meant to—, the movie was handled with much respect and attention given to the story that made the animated version something to cherish. The ballroom dance scene was especially nostalgic and glorious.
The movie was not without its imperfections here and there, such as the scene in which there gathered a group of people gasping and reacting loudly, overacting to express the response the audience needed to understand. Plus, the addition of some background details into Belle’s family, along with a few other new scenes, was the reason the movie turned into an over-two-hour film. Whether some of that was necessary is questionable, but not necessarily pointless.
But Disney made up for it in many other ways, including adding some new songs and changing some of the characters to persons of color. They have yet to do that to the main characters, but this is still a step in the right direction. (Although some may want to argue that a “Hamilton”-like casting could’ve been acceptable.) Also added was the much talked about gay character (who wasn’t suggested as a gay character in the original) of LeFou (Gad), Gaston’s sidekick. Not only was his sexuality flipped, his morality gets put into question, giving him better depth of character than just the villain’s “yes” man/sidekick/follower.
All in all, the cast and the music and the story, which is still the same story as the original, the wondrous sets and scenery, and the costumes (my God, the costumes!) made this movie a worthy successor to the original and worth bringing the whole family to see.