Among a series of live-action remakes of classic animated films, Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” is the best to date. This tale as old as time remains true to the acclaimed 1991 animated film, while still adding new content and modern spins on classic characters.
Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” stems from the French fairy tale written by Jeanne-Marie LePrince de Beaumont. A beggar seeks shelter at a castle, but the prince (Dan Stevens) who owns the castle, turns her away. Unknown to the prince, the beggar is actually an enchantress who turns him into a beast and all his servants into household items. To break the spell, the prince must earn the love of someone before a magical rose loses all its petals. If he does not, he will remain a beast and his servants will remain as objects.
Belle (Emma Watson), a progressive young woman in a small French village, is constantly ridiculed for her intelligence and love of reading. Known as the loveliest single lady in town, she is pursued by the egotistical hunter, Gaston (Luke Evans) who is perpetually seeking her hand in marriage despite being constantly rejected by both her and her father, Maurice (Kevin Kline).
When Maurice gets lost on his way to the market and finds himself at the Beast’s castle, he is imprisoned by the Beast for stealing a rose from his garden to give to Belle. Belle finds her father and chooses to take his place in jail. Household objects, Lumiere (Ewan McGregor) a candelabra, Cogsworth (Ian McKellen), a clock and Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson) a teapot, seek this opportunity to try to set up the Beast and Belle in the hopes that they fall in love and break the spell.
Growing up with this classic animated film I certainly had my doubts when entering the theater. Within the first few minutes, I was immediately impressed by Emma Watson’s vocal performance. I was also pleasantly surprised to see some of my favorite actors, McGregor and McKellen, lend their voices to some of my favorite childhood characters. McGregor’s “Be Our Guest” and Thompson’s “Something New” were excellent new renditions of these classic songs and a joy to experience.
Knowing that most audience members have seen the original animated film several times, Disney adds a few new songs and backstory to these lovable characters. I was not only happy to learn more about Belle’s mother, but simply enjoyed the more mature events that unfolded when the story “dove deeper” into some of the existing parts of the story.
Revisiting this story as an adult was also equally rewarding. I never noticed the xenophobic overtones of Gaston’s quest to kill the Beast because he is “different” than the people of the village. Also, I loved seeing the subtle growth in Belle’s and Beast’s relationship as displayed in the song “Something New.” The small bricks that build a relationship were lost on my childhood self in the 90’s.
Anyone who is a fan of musicals, Disney films, or just frankly high-quality films, should take the time to check out the new version of “Beauty and the Beast.”