Review: Beauty and the Beast
After the death of Walt Disney in 1966, Walt Disney Studios sank into what could probably be regarded as the darkest years of the company’s history. Films weren’t selling as well, animation was pushed to the back burner, and competitive companies were threatening to put an end to Disney. It was the enormous success of the film The Little Mermaid which brought the company out of the darkness and launched it into the “Disney Renaissance”, which would eventually produce what is often regarded as one of the best animated Disney films of all time – Beauty and the Beast.
It’s no surprise that, with the new trend of transforming classic animated films into live action recreations, the beloved classic Beauty and the Beast was selected to join films like Cinderella and The Jungle Book for its own reimagination. Disney made sure this particular live action transformation would take its rightful place in the spotlight even during production, when the studio announced that beloved actress Emma Watson would be playing the film’s bookish and headstrong main character, Belle. The film continued to generate hype with its diverse cast, Watson’s refusal to wear a corset for her costume (a point that put the 2015 remake of Cinderella under fire), and the highly scandalous “gay character” that had parents howling that their children would never see the film.
Luckily, Beauty and the Beast lives up to the excitement Disney worked so hard to generate. Musical numbers the original film was known for, such as Beauty and the Beast and Be Our Guest, do not fail to impress the second time around. The animation is stunning, to say the least – the film’s use of color and light are loyal to the beauty of the original animation, and the enchanted characters of the castle are reimagined in lovely and creative ways. The film also includes a number of phenomenal dance numbers such as Gaston, in which characters leap up onto tabletops and are illuminated by a warm firelight.
Watson is wonderful in her part as Belle, giving the character a new depth as a thoughtful but self conscious young girl who dreams not only about the future, but also about her unknown past. Perhaps the only downside is her singing – while Watson’s voice is surprisingly good, it falls shy in comparison to many of the other singers of the film. One of the real stars of this movie is actually Luke Evans as the villainous Gaston (though some of his supposedly comedic moments ended up being more painfully awkward than funny). Josh Gad (Frozen’s Olaf) was also spectacular in his role as LeFou, the controversial homosexual character of the film. It should be noted that for as much scandal as this generated, the only scene in which LeFou interacts in a blatantly romantic fashion with another male character lasts about three seconds and isn’t even central on screen.
Viewers should be warned that this reimagination is somewhat darker than the lighthearted original, with deeper investigation into the death of Belle’s mother, a much more violent end battle between Gaston and the Beast, and a more depressing revelation of what happens to the enchanted servants if the spell is not broken.
The film overall is exciting, visually stunning, and emotionally charged. While this Disney remake certainly isn’t perfect, it’s a joy to watch and a lovely reimagination of a movie that was already spectacular to begin with.
Photo: Shanna Lucas