“Beauty and the Beast” – Review (4 of 5 Stars)

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By Rebecca Daniel, Senior Editor

Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor Directed by: Bill Condon Rated: PG
Disney really knows how to reel me in with these remakes.
Step 1: Pick an animated movie that I loved as a child
Step 2: Tell me that you’re remaking it as a “live action movie”
Step 3: Cast someone from Downton Abbey as a major character.
Step 4: Put a couple of songs in it (If anyone in a movie starts singing about their feelings there is a 90% chance that I love that movie)
Step 5: Let me buy tickets.
It’s not rocket science. Disney just gets me.
Adapting Beauty and the Beast to live action was a major task. They had to make realistic effects, life-like sets, and add a fresh take to the classic story.
For people growing up in the 90’s, Beauty and the Beast is one of the most iconic stories of all time. It’s much more than a tale of a girl trapped in a castle with a beast. It’s a story that illustrates the importance of inner beauty, kindness, and compassion. Does this live-action adaption interpret these important themes and give the fans what we want?
Of course it does! This is a great adaption of Beauty and the Beast. All of the main themes are still in tact while a few new details have been added to the story to give it a fresh update.
Many have wondered how Emma Watson would fare as Belle. She is very good as the smart and thoughtful heroine. Watson notably introduced a few ideas to the director to update the character. In the film, Belle is an inventor and teaches girls to read in her spare time. A very nice touch that adds some real character depth! She is not a victim, but an active participant throughout the story. She steps in to save her father (Kevin Kline) when he is kidnapped by the Beast. Then stands her ground and objects to his demands when she is initially held hostage. The story unfolds between Belle and the Beast much like the animated film, but I appreciated that this adaption added a few extra scenes of background for both the lead characters. It adds to their stories and helps us understand how they relate to each other.
I will say she is one of the weaker singers of the cast. Her voice has a much more modern pop/auto tune sound that doesn’t fit the time period the film takes place in. However, I still really enjoyed her portrayal of Belle. She carries the lead performance with real skill and acting ability.
Every good musical needs a Sound of Music moment.
I was a bit concerned how there could be a Beast in a live action adaption. However, the special effects team pulled it off. The Beast looks quite impressive and all of my concerns were put to rest as I watched the movie. Dan Stevens is great in the role (although we mostly just hear his voice) channeling the Beast’s menacing energy. We can slowly see his personality change from threatening to sympathetic as he spends more time with Belle. It’s amazing what being social can do for your personality! (* This blog does not promote kidnapping. Find your friends normally. Do not lock them in a castle.)  I have to admit, it’s always great to see a Downton Abbey alum in a major movie role! First we had Lily James in Cinderella and now Dan Stevens in Beauty and the Beast…I wonder who will be next?
“Do you ever think there’s more to life than being really really ridiculously angry all of the time?”
I didn’t expect much from Luke Evans portrayal of Gaston. I’ve never seen him in a movie that I particularly liked, but he really surprised me here. He is one of the strongest singers in the cast and plays Gaston with the villainous approach necessary for the role. Gaston is a lot darker in this adaption than he is typically portrayed, but it works with the story. Tagging alongside Gaston is LeFou (Josh Gad). LeFou is just as obsessed with Gaston as he is in the original. He provides some comic relief in the film. Gad is a very talented performer and it’s clear he has a musical theater background. Much has been made about LeFou being Disney’s first openly gay character. Some theaters have banned the film from being shown due to the character, which is ridiculous. After seeing the movie, I can say that all of the controversy surrounding the situation seems majorly blown out of proportion.
One of the best aspects of Beauty and the Beast is the enchanted furniture! Lumière has always been my favorite and, of course, they got Ewan McGregor to play him. A brilliant casting choice, obviously. It’s Ewan McGregor. Although his accent sounds a little more Italian than French, can I request that Ewan McGregor be cast in every musical from now on? Moulin Rouge wasn’t a fluke. (Duh, because it’s a masterpiece. Now I have to go watch it.) He’s back to the singing scene to prove he makes every musical number a party. Joining him are Ian McLellan as Cogsworth, Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts, Stanley Tucci as Cadenza (where has Stanley Tucci been? I miss him so much), Audra McDonald as Madame Garderobe, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Plumette. Talk about a talented voice cast!
Director Bill Condon clearly has quite a stylistic eye. The sets in Beauty in the Beast range from humble countryside to ornate castle to gothic mansion. Each is meticulously detailed to fit with the story. He previously directed Dreamgirls and wrote the script for Chicago (which is now streaming on Netflix! This has been an unpaid ad for Chicago!)  His musical background is quite clear while watching Beauty and the Beast. Each musical number is dazzling and infectious. “Be Our Guest” plays out like a glowing festival of merriment. “Beauty and the Beast” is as beautiful as it is visually striking and lives up to the iconic animated film. Gaston’s angry tirade “The Mob Song” is intense and well choreographed. There are some new songs that have been added that are quite enjoyable. If you love musicals, you’re in for a treat.
Disney has impressed me yet again with their latest live action adaption. I walked out ofBeauty and the Beast with a huge smile on my face. It is magical, dazzling, and captivating. Don’t miss out. Make your way to the theater for this enchanting tale as old as time.
4 of 5 Stars.
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