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My VHS copy of the animated film may be unwatchable by now but I still feel like a little schoolgirl when I think of this tale as old as time. I finally got around to watching the live-action Beauty and the Beast starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens yesterday and you better believe I have comments. If you haven’t seen the film and entirely missed the 90s read no further because SPOILERS are ahead.
This live-action version of Beauty and the Beast fills in some gaps that the original animated Disney film left unexplained. The opening scenes consist of some background on the Prince prior to that wretched enchantress casting that ghastly spell on him. You get to see him generally being vain and self-absorbed. He really wasn’t much different from your modern man with loot, except his house is covered in gold-leaf. Paints the picture, the Prince totally needed an attitude adjustment. I appreciated that they covered the Prince’s face in makeup for this opening scene so you still feel surprised when you see him transform back at the end of the movie.
The next thing that struck me while watching the movie was when we were introduced to Gaston played by Luke Evans. Now I think Luke is just dreamy in a rugged, British bad boy sort of way and while his voice is certainly Gaston big, the rest of him didn’t quite seem to be. I guess that’s why they opted not show Gaston’s muscles during the movie. Lord knows there was plenty of bicep action in the animated version. Whatever Luke Evans was lacking in muscles he more than made up for with his vocal performance which I found to be one of the more robust performances in the film. It makes sense given Evans’ West End pedigree. I’m hoping he has more musical opportunities going forward.
Speaking of vocal performances Emma Watson can certainly sing and her three months of voice lessons paid off but I could still hear the original songstress who sang Belle’s tunes in my head while she was singing. Singing and acting and doing both really well is hard. I give Watson props for having the courage to take on such a well-known and beloved voice.
The sweetest musical moment for me was when Maurice played by Kevin Kline, whose no stranger to musical theater, had his introductory scene. He sang “How Does a Moment Last Forever” a new song for the live-action film while he works on the music box and it just tugged on my heartstrings.
I don’t know how Ewan McGregor managed to channel being a french candlestick so well but he did it! And after watching the “Be Our Guest” number, all I could think of is how can we hook Ewan back up with Baz Luhrmann for another musical. Think about it Baz! Lumiere was definitely a highlight of this film for me.
If you’ve seen the animated movie then you know all about Cogsworth, the clock that makes sure the house keeps running. I felt like they either cut a lot of Cogsworth’s lines or thought he wasn’t that important. His paranoia and neurosis were actually great comic relief when paired with Lumiere’s very french free-spirited attitude. I thought the movie missed an opportunity by not allowing Ian McKellan to do more with the little ticker.
Thankfully, LaFou played by Josh Gad provided quite a bit of comic relief, regardless of who he had his eye on. Any of you reading this that have kids are probably very familiar with Josh Gad; have maybe even thought of putting a hit out on him. Are your kids still into Frozen? I hope you didn’t read that out loud. They might hear you and want to watch it for the 500th time.
As far as the acting is concerned I don’t think it’s going to fair as well come awards season as La La Land but I don’t think Disney cares about that when they’re looking at their bank account. Emma Watson is at times a little stiff while playing Belle and the Beast doesn’t always come off quite as ferocious as he initially was in the animated movie. I kept waiting for Dan Stevens to deliver the line “then go ahead and STARVE” in the loudest voice ever but he didn’t. (See link Beast yelling “then go ahead and starve”)
Where the acting lacked substance the story was rounded out with more background. For instance, we learned about the Beast’s childhood. How he had lost his mother when he was a young boy and was raised by a cruel father. I think this inserted into the film to create more sympathy for the Beast and to apologize for his behavior. We also learned about Belle’s childhood and why her father moved her out to the country from Paris. I don’t think we needed it for purposes of the story but now it’s there and it’s in the cannon.
The costumes were somewhat bland in the film aside from Belle’s ballgown for the dancing scene with the Beast. Apparently, there was an effort to emancipate Belle somehow or make her seem even more rebellious through her wardrobe. You know because refusing to marry, reading every book in town, and inventing things isn’t enough demonstration that you don’t give a damn what the Man thinks. It drove me crazy that they had Belle hiking up her dress to show her bloomers. Like what in the world is going on?! Just put her in pants if that’s what you want. It’s a small thing but it bothered me.
Overall, I enjoyed the movie but of the live-action remakes Disney has undertaken so far, I prefer Cinderella. I’m anxious to see what Disney does with the other Princesses that they’re planning on bringing to life in the years to come. The live-action Mulan is set for release in Winter 2018. Disney whatever you do please cast a Chinese-American or you’ll never hear the end of it!