As “winter turns to spring,” movie goers are marching in mob formation from their homes to the theater to see the much anticipated live action movie, Beauty and the Beast! Yes – it has FINALLY arrived for all of us to enjoy! I willingly admit that I have been anticipating this event for nearly two years!
I have loved this story since the first time I watched the 1991 animated classic. To date myself, that was the year I graduated high school and I’ve considered it a favorite among Disney classics since. The music still moves me to this day. So, when I had the opportunity to snag a few tickets to a fan event hosted at a nearby Cinemark theater the night before the official release, I was on it like any true Disney fan would be.
Two years ago….
As noted, just over two years ago, news broke that this story was coming to the big screen in a live action format. I was writing for a different site at the time and was offered the awesome opportunity to share news as it broke regarding casting and release dates. I can remember sharing when Emma Watson was confirmed to play Belle and all about the rumors surrounding who was going to play Beast.
Did you know that Ryan Gosling was actually considered before Dan Stevens? Yeah – I know!
Well, this beloved story of romance and acceptance has finally returned to the big screen. My middle son was my date to the “ball,” if you may, and we attended the fan event with excitement and an eagerness to how the final product turned out. I’ll be honest –
The wait was well worth it!
Despite an inconsiderate fellow audience (I won’t go into the boring details), nothing could have dulled the brilliance of this film for me. I found the contemporary adaptation exquisite and smooth, true to form and structure, captivating and charming with just enough detail added to expand our understanding of the characters. It wasn’t perfect, I found a few things I didn’t particularly care for, but, all in all, I certainly found myself falling in love with the story and characters all over again.
As Aaryn and I journeyed home that night, we ran through our observations like Siskel & Ebert (oops ~ just dated myself a little more), noting the strengths and weakness, our likes and dislikes and our prognosis of the film’s success. We ultimately resolved that this piece deserved two thumbs up and is destined to be another tremendous Disney win. Why? Well, there are dozens of reasons why and more blog posts out there explaining them than I can count, but here are the reasons why I, in particular, loved this film….and the two things I didn’t care for as much. See if you can relate…
#1: Casting of the Characters
As I mentioned above, I was all over the breaking news as the actors and actresses were selected for their roles in this film. Emma Watson, who ultimately had to prove to everyone that she had the chops to pull this off, played the part of Belle with ease (in my eyes, but not everyone’s). I thought her dedication to making Belle as real as possible was evident and came through successfully. She held the strength and poise of a young woman and was fearless and courageous without any personal drama added.
Luke Evans was a gorgeous specimen to play the part of Gaston. His rugged exterior and sharp facial features literally carried the role from animation to live action effortlessly. He embodied arrogance and narcissism, his ego large enough to give even the most dedicated of friends a reason to question their loyalty.
Of course, the ever lovable Josh Gad almost seems like he was destined to play the role of LeFou, as if it had been written specifically with him in mind. His comedic talent and adorable personality attract audiences everywhere and he certainly and (obviously) delivered a performance worth talking about among the masses.
This I found heartwarming. Kevin Kline took on the task of playing Maurice, Belle’s father. I love how he took this role and gave Maurice substance and depth. Maurice was no longer just a crazy inventor wearing goofy goggles who seemed to have no clue about the world around him. Kline turned him into an devoted, endearing father whose sole purpose in life was to protect the ones he loves. Now, I miss mine….
For many, Angela Lansbury will forever be Mrs. Potts; however, as it was unrealistic to believe Lansbury would be able to reprise this role, I personally believe they found the next best thing. Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks) is truly one of the classic British actresses of our time and I am actually rather fond of her work. If anyone could pull off Mrs. Potts, coming as close to the original portrayal as possible, I think Emma Thompson did.
Of course, Thompson is joined by a plethora of top-notch talent who cannot be forgotten; such talent as Ewan McGregor (Lumiere), Ian McKellan (Cogsworth), Audra McDonald (Garderobe) Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Plumette) and Stanley Tucci (the newly created character, Cadenza). The only one in that list I didn’t think cut it for me was Audra McDonald. She is a stunningly brilliant actress with an amazing vocal talent. I absolutely admire her; however, I felt that her portrayal of Garderobe in this film spent a little too much time in her opera voice and not enough in conversation. It was the connection she had with Belle in the animated version that I loved and wished I had seen more.
Now, the role I found most intriguing was the casting of Beast. Early on in the process, Ryan Gosling had been rumored to be up for the role. It wasn’t too long after that news broke Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) was being cast as Beast instead. I was skeptical at first – well, I was of both, to be honest….however, watching Stevens’ portrayal on screen showed me that he had the posture, voice and eyes to fit the part exquisitely (of course, Gosling went on to act in a little piece called La La Land, so I don’t think he’s too upset about not playing a Beast).
One scene in particular sealed the deal for me and made my heart skip a beat with Stevens in this role. When Beast is transformed by the Enchantress back into Prince Adam (oh, c’mon…I’m not spoiling this for anyone…you all know the story), the camera’s focus on his eyes, his hair, his physique, the movement that pieced it all together. Every single aspect seemed to match what we remember seeing in the animated classic, captured and orchestrated perfectly. That was it – Dan Stevens was the right choice.
Yup – I rambled on about the cast. Let’s move on…
#2 The Music and Songs
I love a good musical! Alan Menken’s 1991 original score was mesmerizing for a music major like myself. I was so impressed when I heard that they chose to stay true to that, never deviating from the original lyrics. It allowed for fans like me to sit there in my seat and sing along with it with a smile in my heart and on my face, being careful not to disturb the stranger sitting to my left of course. It was familiar, it was charming. Of course, new music was still added to the film in keeping with the idea of expanding the story. Menken orchestrated three additional pieces and incorporated them into the story: an emotional ballad for Beast, a lullaby for the household staff, and a third sung by Celine Dion. I’ll share more about Beast’s ballad later.
#3 The Backstories
I have to say that this was perhaps my favorite part of the entire film. Again, we have the director, Bill Condon, staying true to the original in so many ways, delivering the same story everybody knows and loves. As devoted as he was to its structure, however, he wanted to find a way to reimagine it just enough to expand upon the unique fairy tale, adding a small element of surprise to keep us engaged. This was executed flawlessly by adding “layers” to flesh out a few of the storylines. For instance, we learn a bit about Prince Adam’s upbringing. We hear tidbits that shed a little light on Gaston’s personality. The story of Belle’s mother is also revealed and adds so much to the connection between Maurice and his daughter. I won’t spill any of the details, but know that everything added truly enhances the picture and embellishes the story just enough. It doesn’t deviate at all, just expands….and that includes the ever-so-blown-out-of-proportion detail about LeFou.
So ~ let’s briefly address the proverbial “elephant in the room.”
The social media frenzy over the “exclusively gay moment” with LeFou has been over exaggerated. Bill Condon, an openly gay man himself, essentially took a two dimensional character and expanded upon his blind devotion, turning him into someone real, someone authentic. To be honest, people, a mountain is being made out of a molehill for no reason at all. What was added truly does not take anything away from the authenticity of the character found in the animated film. In fact, I love that they made LeFou human. I also love the fact that this is a nod and a tip of the hat to the original animated film’s lyricist, Howard Ashman, who was battling AIDS during the 1991 production of the film. Of all people associated this movie’s history, he truly knew what it was like to be considered “peculiar,” an “outsider,” at the time the animated version was being created. So…let me be clear…the scenes involved are done seamlessly, tastefully and add a beautiful humorous reality to the storyline. Please stop the nonsense…
#4 The Message
There is no question this is a love story. However, it is also a tremendous tale of friendship and common ground, as well as working hard to find the best inside of a person. I so wish people would realize that this works so much better than resorting to judgement. Every character in this film, from Belle to Maurice to the Beast, has his or her own quirks and it takes time, devotion and openness by others to see through to the heart of them. This movie truly speaks to the personification of acceptance and individuality.
Now let’s keep it real…
So – along with the things I loved about this film, there were two elements I didn’t. I didn’t hate them, I simply didn’t “like” them as much as the rest.
#1 Beast’s CGI (computer generated imagery)
I’m going to be completely honest here. While I believe Dan Stevens is adorable, was perfect for the role of Beast, and has eyes that are to die for (honey, I love you….but his eyes….end of story), I personally think the advanced CGI used to create his character was a little too rough around the edges at times. It felt as if it had a mechanical quality to it, making some of his movements unrealistic to me. It wasn’t obvious throughout the entire film, but was particularly evident to me in the ballroom scene and when they were walking down the stairs to see the rose. That’s not to say I don’t think it was done well. I just don’t think his particular character was designed as seamlessly as the other CGI characters were. (I will give credit, however ~ this movie had to be a “beast” of a project to undertake and I give kudos to the talent behind this film).
#2 Beast’s ballad
The second dislike centers around Beast’s ballad. Again, I love Dan Stevens’ portrayal of Beast and his voice is beautiful. However, the solo, “For Evermore” just did not do it for me. The song was nice and I do see how the lyrics were applicable, but the scene felt out of character, out of place (like “Summer” in Frozen or “Shiny” in Moana ~ something just didn’t feel right to me personally…don’t hate me). I felt Beast’s movements were inappropriately dramatic, over exaggerated and inconsistent with how he carried himself throughout the rest of the movie. It just didn’t fit the heartbreak of a Beast for me. #SorryNotSorry
The movie is ultimately another cinematic piece of excellence done by Walt Disney Studios. From the story’s origin in 16th century Italian literature to the most contemporary adaptation incorporating CGI technology, the richness of this enduring tale continues to influence generations. The direction by Bill Condon and musical orchestration by Alan Menken were done exquisitely. The entire village behind its production masterful. There was “just a little change, small to say the least,” that simply built upon the creative genius that made us fall in love with a young woman from a small provincial town and a hideous Beast. Though I agree with many of my friends that it may not be deemed Oscar Worthy for Best Picture (though it could win a few based on other categories), it will certainly become another treasured piece of our movie history and will remain as enchanted as a magical rose under beautifully ornamented glass.
Until next time ~ T
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Read some of my other movie reviews:
- The Sacrifice for Hope ~ A Review of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (semi-spoiler alert):
- Finally – The Episode VII Review: For What Its Worth…
- Three Ways Disney’s Moana Tugged On This Mom’s Heartstrings
- My Zoo’s Review: Zootopia, hit or miss?