By Madison Gillespie
When I heard the tale as old as time was returning to the big screen, I couldn’t have been more thrilled. Beauty and the Beast was one of my favorite Disney movies growing up, and Belle, alongside Rapunzel and Moana, has continued to be one of my favorite Disney princesses. I have always admired Belle’s determination to follow her dreams and to aspire for more than the provencial life she lived, never settling for less than what she deserved (cough cough, Gaston). Knowing that Emma Watson would assume the role of Belle only increased my excitement for the movie. As an advocate for women worldwide, I knew Watson would bring a fresh perspective to the timeless character – not to mention I adore her as an actress.
I entered the theater with high expectations, fully prepared to sing along to every song and ugly cry in the bathroom afterwards (yes, the original has this effect on me). Now that I have seen the film, I can confirm that while these expectations were not fully satisfied, this live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast is still a strong contender to the original. Here is a breakdown of my thoughts on the movie.
Overall, the plot of Beauty and the Beast closely follows the original film. While every scene is not the same line for line, shot for shot, this is to be expected with remakes. The essential components of the movie remained intact, and the essence of the animated movie could be sensed throughout. The only major differences were not changes to the plot, but additions to the story that blended in seamlessly with the classic scenes. The Beast is given some backstory as to how he became so selfish and cruel, and more information on Belle’s childhood is revealed. The latter was a particularly interesting addition, since Belle’s upbringing is barely mentioned in the original. Would the movie have been just fine without these additions? Absolutely, but the plot changes did add more depth to the film without detracting from the story as a whole. Besides, I prefer when remakes are not cookie-cutter copies of the original movies.
For the most part, Beauty and the Beast’s classic characters were well represented in this remake. Out of all the characters, I felt the Beast and his servants delivered the best performances. Downton Abbey star Dan Stevens was a powerful Beast, pouring a great deal of emotion into the role. He captured the Beast’s short temper and misunderstood nature perfectly and had one of the strongest singing voices of the entire cast.
As for the servants, all of the signature characters – Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts and Chip, Madame de Garderobe (Belle’s wardrobe), Plumette (a featherduster and Lumiere’s love interest) and Sultan (the castle dog that is turned into a footstool) were fantastic in the remake – the banter between Lumiere and Cogsworth was easily as entertaining as the original. The film also introduced a new servant, Cadenza (played by Stanley Tucci), a harpsichord and husband to Madame de Garderobe. Cadenza added some more humor to the story and meshed so well with the other characters that I almost forgot he wasn’t an original to begin with.
As for the film’s human stars, I was not the biggest fan of Emma Watson’s performance as Belle at first. While Watson did capture some aspects of Belle’s personality perfectly, such as her love of animals and books and her compassion towards the Beast and his servants, there were other times I felt the emotion wasn’t really there. For instance, Belle wasn’t nearly as animated – literally and figuratively – as her animated counterpart during the “Be Our Guest” sequence:
There was certainly no dancing with cupcakes for Belle in the remake. But that being said, I did enjoy Watson’s overall take on the princess, and I think I will come to like this version of Belle more after seeing the movie again.
As for everyone’s favorite Disney villain, Gaston (portrayed by Luke Evans) was just as smoldering as in the original, oozing confidence from head to toe. The only difference in this movie was that Gaston wasn’t unintelligent, breaking from the “handsome but dumb” stereotype that was once essential to his character. In some ways, I think this made Gaston all the more wicked as a villain. And in terms of Gaston’s trusty sidekick Lefou (portrayed by Josh Gad), he was spot-on in this movie. From his singing to his demeanor, it seemed as though the animated LeFou had truly come to life, and no other character made me laugh as much as he did.
Beauty and the Beast’s musical numbers were some of my favorite parts of the movie. The original songs still give me goosebumps today, and they continued to hold that same power in this movie. I was worried that “Be Our Guest” wouldn’t be as magical this time around, but it quickly became one of my favorite scenes – the special effects were absolutely dazzling, especially on the big screen. The film also introduces some brand new songs: one for Maurice (Belle’s father), one for Belle, the Beast and all the servants, and solos for Belle and the Beast. All of the new songs fit in well with the story, and while the movie would have been fine with its original soundtrack, I don’t mind listening to this one either.
With all of the charm, humor and magic as the original, Beauty and the Beast is a pretty satisfying adaptation of the animated film. The plot and characters may not be exactly the same and you may not recognize all of the songs, but I still believe this remake is one for the books (Belle pun intended). You could probably get away without seeing the film until it’s available to rent, but if you’re a die-hard Disney fan, then definitely go see it in theaters. You’ll likely leave afterwards with a smile on your face, as I did – not quite blown away, but happy and pleased nonetheless.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars