Today, one the year’s most anticipated films will finally be arriving to theaters: Disney’s live action adaptation of their classic 1991 film, Beauty and the Beast. This film carries a lot of expectation, due to original’s enduring enchantment. Being the very first animated film to ever be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, it’s no surprise that it continues to hold a special meaning for nearly everyone. For me, it was the first film I ever saw in a theater, my first introduction to fairy tales, and my very first introduction to Disney. The “tale as old as time” still inspires us to look beyond what’s in front of us, to be brave, and to dream bigger. The opportunity to see this magical story come to life in amazing life action is thrilling, to say the least.
As everyone undoubtedly knows, the story is thus: A selfish, arrogant prince is cursed by an enchantment and becomes a hideous Beast, living alone in his enchanted castle. The only thing to break the spell is if he learns to love another and receive their love in return. Hope seems lost, until a beautiful girl wanders into the castle, setting the stage for their beautiful love story.
Any doubts that I had that this version would live up to its predecessor completely vanished by the time the film’s opening musical number (the classic “Belle”) ended. The scene includes lovely references to its source material, but never veers into making a shot-for-shot replica, giving this version of Belle, played by Emma Watson, and her “poor, provincial town” a new depth and tangibility beyond the 2-D representation we’ve been used to for years. It opens with a fresh feeling of enchantment, which the film spreads into every aspect of the story with lavish costumes, beautiful sets, and even simply beautiful props. But the film is completely founded upon the excellent cast.
Standout performances undeniably include Ewan McGregor as the enchanted candelabrum Lumiere. He gave a wonderfully unique performance of his own, while still embodying the swagger and charisma we’ve always loved about the character. His underused musical talents are once again given time to shine, and he is consistently enjoyable to watch, despite most of the time being completely CGI.
Another mostly CGI character that deserves proper shout-out is Broadway star Audra McDonald as Madame de Garderobe, the enchanted wardrobe. The film delves more into her backstory and we get to see lovely scenes of their human life before the castle’s enchantment. Her amazing Broadway-caliber set of pipes brought the larger-to-life character to life, both as a human and wardrobe.
Luke Evans and Josh Gad were perfect as the duo of Gaston and Lumiere, respectively. These stock characters from the animated film were given such fresh life and depth, explaining backstory and even contributing to a bit of unexpected character development. Who would’ve thought?
Dan Stevens, playing the Beast, and Watson both give lovely performances. Stevens manages to capture the complexity of the Beast’s emotions, transitioning from anger to kindness in a natural, seamless way. Watson portrays Belle as we always remembered, as a brave, smart, kind, and loyal role model, continuing the Belle legacy.
This was absolutely one of my favorite of Walt Disney Studio’s live action adaptations, and makes me eager to see more and more of what they have planned for their future retellings of their classic films. You can learn more about the Beauty and the Beast by visiting their site here. Tickets are now available, you can find showtimes and seats here.
Pictures Courtesy of: Walt Disney Studios