Beauty and the Beast Review

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Is this live action remake of the animated classic a beauty or a beast?

Back when I was a child, I recall watching the Beauty and the Beast and just being blown away by the animation.  It was so ahead of its time it seemed with its art.  I was inspired to try to do my own animation after that, to no avail of course.  That original Disney film was a masterpiece however with the story and the animation going hand and hand to make it so great. It was so great that it was one of the rare animated films to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. It was perfect essentially.  So, there was a lot of pressure to recreate its magic when filming it in live action for present day. 

Disney has had a good run with their live action remakes so far…Cinderella, Maleficent, and Jungle Book have been solid films.  That’s great but now they are starting to get to some of the heavy hitters of their archives.  The tough part about remaking a classic like Beauty and the Beast, and an issue that a film like Jungle Book doesn’t necessarily have to deal with, is the casting of its iconic protagonist Belle.  When you cast real people for beloved roles, there is always some people that are going to hold a bias against that particular performer, thinking that they are not the right look or fit for the role.

I’ll admit that I had some of those same doubts when I found out Emma Watson was cast for Belle.  Sure, Emma is good looking gal, but Belle is supposed to be breathtakingly beautiful.  In my humble opinion, Miss Watson didn’t quite meet that standard.  Not only that, but there is also the tough burden of recreating the equally iconic Beast.  The question was whether they would use CGI or live action prosthetics to recreate his menacing look.  After watching the trailers, we all learned that the producers decided on CGI and I thought it looked subpar.  These are the preconceived notions I had before going in to watch The Beauty and The Beast.  Pleasantly enough, I’m surprised to say that the film was able to get me to forget about these qualms in the first place and envelope me in a truly delightful move experience.

The story of Beauty and The Beast should be familiar enough to mostly everyone but for those of you that aren’t quite familiar, we’ll review the basic gist of it right here. It’s tough to spoil a movie that mostly everyone has seen when they were younger anyway.  So, this is the story of an intelligent young woman named Belle. She lives in a small French provincial town. A place where everyone knows each other. She is seen as an outcast because she is literate and loves to read books. This is unlike the other women of this town, who are mostly illiterate and just aspire to meet a decent man to be their husband.  Her father is an artist, inventor and a trade merchant. 

One day he leaves Belle to go to the market in Paris.  He finds himself in the grounds of a mysterious castle in the woods, after he ends up lost in the woods.  Belle’s father goes snooping around the castle, only to find himself a prisoner of the Beast like creature that lives there.  Belle goes to look for him when she sees that her father’s horse returns home without her dad.  The horse is able to lead Belle to the castle where she finds her dad imprisoned.  She is confronted by the Beast. Despite being fearful for her life, Belle makes a bargain to switch places with her father, one which the Beast accepts. From there, Belle stays at this castle as the Beast’s prisoner. 

What Belle doesn’t realize it is this castle is enchanted and cursed. The Beast and his rest of the residents have been transformed.  They are in a race against time to reverse this curse before it becomes permanent.  This can only be done if the Beast falls in love with someone and that person returns the Beast’s love.  Will Belle be the one to see the humanity in the Beast so that the curse may be broken?

This film is a marvel from any sort of standpoint you wish to judge it through.  First of all, Emma Watson as Belle. She was able to do a tremendous job in portraying the famous character.  Her look just worked for this part.  Then there was the Beast. I had concerns about the CGI, but the final rendering of him turned out pretty good.  Despite not capturing the full menace of the animated Beast, this one still seemed to be visually interesting without being too jarring to look at. Luke Evans is decent enough as the films primary antagonist, Gaston.  The rest of the supporting cast was capable as well.  I enjoyed the portrayal of the enchanted items of the castle. 

This is virtually beat for beat, a recreation of the animated original.  The cinematography was beautiful as is the rest of this movie.  It must be remembered this is also a musical of sorts which may lead to one of the few negatives of the film. One or two of the musical numbers seem to go on too long.  The well known “Be Our Guest” number also was kind of visually confusing.  There was also a big fuss about Lafou, a supporting character, being gay but that hardly comes into play at all.

Whenever a film like Beauty and The Beast is remade, there is conflicting ideologies for how to judge it. Should it be judged as its own film or should it be held against the brilliant standard of the original? I would say on both accords, Beauty and The Beast holds its own.  The live adaption was able to add a little of its own flair which makes it unique. They add some backstories in addition to smoothing over some inconsistencies of the original.  This is done while maintaining the same notes and ideas of the original.  This is a remarkable achievement. 

I truly had an enjoyable time watching this one.  Hopefully Disney continues the trend with Lion King and Aladdin. While the animated original may be slightly better, this one is still brilliant.  It’s a film that should be seen with your loved ones for sure.

Grade: B+

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