Unlike the withering magical rose given to Beast, Beauty and the Beast blooms like the vibrant, enchanting rose that it is. And it’s why this much-anticipated live-action musical adaptation will win over fans of all ages.
The classic tale of a beautiful girl finding love in a tortured beast begins with a spectacular opening ballroom scene, where the Prince (Dan Stevens) and all the occupants of his castle are cursed by an enchantress. This curse not only changes the Prince into a Beast and his servants into various household objects such as chairs and candlesticks but also removes all memory of the castle even existing from the rest of the world.
Years later, the movie now pans to Belle (Emma Watson), a young Frenchwoman in a small provincial village full of small-minded residents who are puzzled by her desire to read books and her consistent rejection of affections by the dashing yet self-absorbed, Gaston (Luke Evans). The movie truly begins when Belle’s roaming father (Kevin Kline) winds up the Beast’s prisoner after venturing off his regular path, Belle insists on taking her dad’s place. The Beast complies, and Belle finds herself condemned to his castle, fawned over by the candelabra, Lumiere (Ewan McGregor), a talking clock, Cogsworth (Ian McKellan), and a cockney teapot, Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson), each hoping that Belle will melt the Beast’s heart and break the curse that has damned them to a life of home furnishing.
Musically, the film soars. The songs are melodic and hummable; the cast all sings beautifully. The coming alive of the Castle’s key (animated) characters is charming with the oooh lala French candelabra Lumiere, Cogsworth and Mrs Potts, who sings the film’s title song. Dan Stevens with a rich, booming voice as The Beast makes for an interesting portrayal. His Beast is a brooding fur-covered giant; a tormented man trapped within a hideous exterior and whose plight as each rose petal falls and brings him to eternal doom, makes him more and more despondent. The darkness of the character is reflected in the production design and offbeat world in which he lives as opposed to the brighter, vibrant atmosphere of Belle’s village.
Most of the plot and characters remain true to the classic 1991 film yet there are a few subtle improvements. Among them is Gaston & Le Fou (Josh Gad), both characters receive considerably more personality that encapsulates who these characters were intended to be and not change them in any way. There’s a scene (multiple scenes actually) where Gaston shows his truly sinister side by getting rid of Belle’s father through less than savory means and perhaps you’ve heard that his sidekick, LeFou is the first gay character in Disney history. Translation: For a half of a second in the closing scene, he decides to dance with another guy. Besides that, he’s pretty much just a slightly enhanced version of his 1991 self.
What is refreshing about the Beauty and the Beast tale in current times is that it goes beyond the usual princess-centric plot in that the woman saves the man. In this tale we see a sense of equality, equal parts bravery, equal parts fear and equal parts understanding. Besides that, love is also presented in a much deeper sense, in that it appears in us unpredictably and uncontrollably. That idea is summarized neatly in a line from one of the songs: “There may be something there that wasn’t there before.” The line is both a riddle and an answer. If you’re old enough to have heard it for the first time in 1991, it almost certainly means something new to you now.
She may be reading Romeo and Juliet, but it is Shakespeare’s quote ‘Love looks with the mind, not the eyes’ from A Midsummer Night’s Dream that is featured, when The Beast’s library becomes the pathway that leads to Belle’s heart. This adaptation of Beauty and the Beast has both the looks and the personality, which is why it gets a Screenbite.my rating of 8/10.