**WARNING: Contains SPOILERS**
Beauty and the Beast (1991) is my favorite and most cherished Disney animation for its breathtaking imagery, timeless music, and impactful morals. Thursday night, the anticipated remake of this Disney classic finally graced the silver screen. With high hopes and expectations, I could not contain my excitement as I waited in the theater.
Beauty and the Beast (2017) can proudly claim to be the best live-action Disney adaptation to date. It found a perfect balance between paying homage to the original while also presenting a more in-depth narrative to address many unanswered questions that were pending from its release in 1991. Belle and The Beast are finally graced with sophisticated character development. Unlike the later, the audience sees their love genuinely grow through their intellectual passion for literature, similar childhood misfortunes, and desire to escape the confines of their societal prisons. This incorporation unfortunately caused many of the original scenes feeling rushed while losing fluidity in the transitions. Without a doubt, the film is a dazzling visual spectacle that will entertain all who see it. By far, the most impressive aspect of this film was the intricate character design, costuming, and mise-en-scène that rose to the beautiful artistry of the original animation.
The cast, for the most part, was impressive but a select few triumphed over the rest. Emma Watson’s portrayal failed to impress, as did her singing. Although her performance can be summarized as “satisfactory”, Watson did not convey Belle’s wondrous curiosity but rather presented an apathetic enactment. What is commendable is the incorporation of feminist themes, such as Belle’s advocacy for equal female education, self-reliance, and innovation. The beloved anthropomorphic candelabra, Lumiere (voiced by Ewan McGregor), also lost his charm by an unforgiving French accent. This unpleasant voice-acting removed me from the movie and filled my heart with disappointment. For the sake of CGI realism, the magic that was once in the animation is lost as Lumiere, Cogsworth, and Mrs. Potts tend to blend into the background and regrettably become forgettable. Despite some of these lack-luster performances, Gaston (Luke Evans) and LeFou (Josh Gad) stole the limelight. Their comical chemistry was a refreshing addition and brought new life to the duo by portraying LeFou as a complex individual and not a gullible goon. Gad’s witty delivery and his blinded infatuation with Gaston filled the theater with laughter.
The film opened to a disappointing start with an uninspiring and ill-paced narration as to how the beastly prince became cursed. It was enjoyable to see the story through action, but the once luring introduction had lost its aura of mystery and enchantment. This error was soon saved by the stunning musical rendition and choreography of “Belle”, “Gaston”, and “The Mob Song”, which all mirrored its predecessor’s composition almost shot for shot. Some may consider this as a cop-out, but the director, Bill Condon, clearly demonstrates his admiration for this Disney classic. Nevertheless, his passion could not save the mismanagement of what I consider the story’s most significant scenes. The most touching moment of the original animation is the sincere emotion conveyed through Paige O’Hara’s performance as Belle confesses her love for The Beast as the last petal drops. Condon’s decision to have the Enchantress coincidently watch over as Belle cries after the last petal has long dropped and miraculously brings The Beast back to life. This addition destroyed what was once an extraordinary emotional scene.
Although this film lives up to the splendor, it fails in comparison to the magical animation. I would rate the new Beauty and the Beast a 7 out of 10. It is worth seeing on the big screen, and I highly recommend an IMAX screening to appreciate the intricate details and bold color palette. There is so much more that I’d be happy to ramble on about, but the pub is calling me for St. Patty’s Day. Cheers!