An adaptation of the Disney fairy tale about a monstrous-looking prince and a young woman who fall in love.
The tale as old as time has been remastered and has shed its cartoon skin for a more glamorous almost human cast. Emma Watson perfectly portraits our favorite book lover, now if we could just get her hooked on coffee, she almost seemed a little too serene even at the height of suspense. Fellow co-stars include Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline, and many more. This all-star cast created a magical movie to enthrall young and old.
I saw the original (I’m aging myself here) in the theater way back in 1991 and had all the songs memorized by the time we had our very own VHS copy. Even then, when my imagination was less flighty, a few aspects of the film went beyond the realm of understandable to downright bizarre. All of these strange moments are given credibility with the extension of forty-five extra minutes. All of my favorite scenes and songs were left intact; all the more enjoyable in 3D.
The story has not changed much; Belle (Emma Watson)is the strange girl in town because she is a bookworm in an old fashion village. The garish and pompous Gaston (Luke Evans), with LeFou (Josh Gad) trailing close by, is determined to win the one girl who does not swoon at his industrial sized feet. Maurice (Kevin Kline), Belle’s father, is not a bumbling inventor but a tinkerer. He finishes a beautiful music box just in time to leave for the market, where he promptly gets lost and finds himself in front of a forsaken castle in the snow, despite it being the month of June. When Maurice’s horse returns home without his owner, Belle has the horse return her to where her father was left.
The Beast (Dan Stevens) has taken Maurice hostage forever, and Belle steps in and takes his place as the Beast’s prisoner. All of the inanimate objects work together to help Belle feel like she is not a prisoner, but in the best place in the world, so they can attempt to help the unlikely pair fall in love to break the curse. The curse was set by an enchantress in disguise who was determined to help the Beast find the meaning of inner beauty and disgraced him with a horrible disfigurement. The Beast takes a while to remember his manners and how to interact with other humans. Before long he and Belle are best of friends finding they have much in common.
Meanwhile, Maurice makes his way back to tell the town about the Beast and attempts to find help to save Belle from the clutches of a monster. Gaston humors the old man hoping for Maurice’s permission to marry Belle. When the path to the castle disappears, Gaston and LeFou decide to abandon Maurice in the woods before trying to force him into a mental institution because he appears to be delusional. Through a looking glass, Belle can see her father is suffering and the Beast, now in love with the beautiful girl, releases her to save her dad. When she returns with proof the Beast is real, the town turns towards the castle ready to kill the Beast. Gaston will not allow anyone, including a monster, to stand in the way of his wishes. Belle returns just in time to tell a dying Beast that she loves him.
The makers of this redo went out of their way to make the backgrounds visually stunning. Placed by the Rhine river, the movie pays tribute to King Ludwig II and Schloss Neuschwanstein, including feather dusters in the shape of swans. The entire cast is dressed to meet the time including powdered wigs and huge ornate dresses. Oh, and the objects in the castles were amazing! Lumiere (Ewan McGregor) and Cogsworth (Ian McKellen), still my favorites, were opulent and imaginative. Ms. Potts (Emma Thompson) was a bit weird looking; I think the creators could have done a better job meeting the original design, but Emma Thompson was an excellent recast for Angela Lansbury. Chip (Nathan Mack) was adorable, however, as was the boisterous wardrobe. In this version, LeFou changes roles, but this is a minor infraction. While the objects were well represented, the only downfall was the overt darkness throughout the show. I know this was done to highlight the objects and the Beast slowly losing their human qualities, but a little more light would have kept this rendition closer to the original.
Did I mention the music yet? The music was worth the wait! I do believe the cast had a bit of help digitally, but all the classic songs were there and performed as originally done in the cartoon counterpart. “Be Our Guest” was as delectable on screen, with the help of computers, as it was drawn. Three new songs were introduced, while not really spectacular enough to mention, the songs did not interfere with the integrity of the movie.
I want to touch lightly on the gay controversy. The script did have about ten seconds of implicating a potential gay relationship. Seriously, this bit was so short and so underdone, it does not deserve to be called a controversy. Let’s face it, even in the cartoon version back in the 90s, Lefou was following Gaston just a little too close, and no one freaked out then. Let’s move on and enjoy the thousands of other seconds because there was just so much to enjoy in this remake.
If you are a fan or even a newbie to this Disney classic, you will walk away satisfied and sated. The forty-five extra minutes allows time to fill in some context. Why did the Beast feel the need to punish Maurice forever? Why did Belle dislike Gaston so much? What happened to Belle’s mother? What happened to the Beast’s parents? Yep, all these questions and more are answered and to the benefit of the plot. Put on a pretty yellow dress on Friday and head to the theater for your new favorite family film.
In theaters Friday, March 17th