The new Beauty and the Beast improves upon the animated original! The film is longer than the original – a full 45 minuets longer than the 1991 cartoon – but it uses that time to unleash fresh new songs, expand on character backstories, and provide more reasons for a provincial girl to fall in love with a ferocious beast.
It is a tale as old as time: Belle (Emma Watson) is the well-read outcast of her French village who comes to the rescue of her eccentric artist father (Kevin Kline) when he’s taken captive by the Beast (Dan Stevens). The former prince is now the furry resident of a rundown castle, and when Belle switches places with her imprisoned dad, she and the Beast go from distrusting strangers to fledgling lovebirds. Standing in their way are a jealous suitor, angry townsfolk, and a magical rose with falling petals that acts as a countdown clock for the Beast’s humanity.
Condon’s Beauty and the Beast is much more of a musical than the original; from an over-the-top musical opening where the selfish prince is transformed by an enchantress, to additional songs and wide-scope dance numbers, this Beauty and the Beast will enchant viewers the whole way through.
Belle is updated and much more of a modern feminist; in addition to having no patience for illiterate brutes like uber-macho town hero Gaston (Luke Evans), Emma Watson’s Belle is an inventor herself, designing a washing machine so that she can spend more time reading.
More time is spent in this Beauty and the Beast showing how Belle and the Beast grow to love each other beyond just geeking out over books. A new plot point has the Beast helping Belle come to grips with the loss of her mom. The Beast is created through visual effects wizardry, but the effects are so seamless that oftentimes you forget you are watching cinematic magic. The extra time spent on the love story in this rendition lets us in on more intimate moments, and this is where the movie catches fire. This Beast is a flawed human being instead of a special effect; he is a Beast worth saving. The love story was so well developed in this film that I found myself tearing up at the end, even though I knew what was to come!
Beyond the beautiful love story, the casting of this film was absolutely perfect! Gaston is the entertaining jerk Evans was born to play. Josh Gad, who plays Gaston’s loyal sidekick, took LeFou from a bumbling sidekick to a wickedly entertaining voice of reason who fosters a crush on Gaston. Be prepared to watch Gad steal every scene. The film also gets a boost from the household objects that famously come to life: Ewan McGregor played a charming Lumiere and Emma Thompson was a delightful Mrs. Potts.
Go see this film in theaters! Go see it more than once! It is pure magic!
Review: 5 out of 5 Stars
Director: Bill Condon
Release Date: March 17, 2017