The story of an older, scary looking guy who holds a small teenage girl hostage until she ultimately agrees to be with him is the type of plot you’d expect to see on the latest episode of the crime show “First 48.”
However, once you throw “Disney” in front of it, it becomes a fairy tale.
“Beauty and the Beast,” the new live action remake, is a breath of fresh air for the fan of the beloved original animated movie. It follows the typical Disney story line — a damsel in distress ends up falling in love with a prince, living happily ever after.
Belle, played by Emma Watson, is the sweet bookish teen who is adored by her artist father, and is diverted to a castle. While there, he picks a rose to take to Belle. But the castle is the home of a cursed prince, played by Dan Stevens, who doesn’t take stealing lightly and throws Maurice into a dungeon. Belle arrives, begging to take Maurice’s place. The beast agrees to the swap, keeping in mind that he must find someone who loves him soon, before the last petal of a magical rose falls, or he will never return to his human self.
I love Emma Watson, but she doesn’t do as good a job portraying Belle as I thought she would. The character calls for an extremely talented singer and while she’s not a bad singer she isn’t a good one either. There are times her notes fall flat and that takes away from the magical songs.
Beast develops romantic feelings towards Belle, and she has feelings for him, but is unsure of them because of her imprisonment — go figure.
Dan Stevens does an amazing job portraying the Beast. He moves gracefully seeing as he has a heavy body suit and standing on 10 inch stilts. His facial expressions, using motion-capture technology, are magnificent and his performance adds life to his character.
As time passes, Belle’s father begs his fellow villagers to save his daughter, but the only one who’ll help is the pompous Gaston (Luke Evans) and his servant Lefou (Josh Gadd).
Evans and Gadd were born to play these roles. When the two are together they create that special Disney magic and steal the show — their energy is undeniable.
Gaston figures that he’ll take a shot at Belle and he grows more attracted to her with every refusal. He quickly goes from annoying to evil when his agenda starts to fail. Much has been made of the “gay” moment in the film, even leading to bans in some countries. Lefou obviously “admires” Gaston, but it is tasteful and funny, and the gay moment at the end goes by in a flash. Frankly, it is not worth the fuss.
Gaston is only helping so that he can have Belle’s hand in marriage. When Maurice refuses, Gaston has him thrown in the asylum and the villagers march to the castle to kill the beast.
What happens next is an action-packed fight scene between goofy villagers and magical talking furniture — did I mention the castle’s staff has also been cursed?
The household items are voiced by some big-name actors, including Ewan McGregor as Lumiere, Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts, Stanley Tucci as the harpsicord and Audra McDonald as the wardrobe.
In short, he’s a beast and a prince. She’s a bookworm and his therapist. The transition from imprisonment to true love is handled smoothly. Under Belle’s gaze, Beast starts to change into a soft romantic in a more adult way than in the animated version.
Although, the “tale as old as time” is supposed be soft and compassionate, there is some intense violence that may be too much for very young children.
On the other hand, scenes such as “Be Our Guest” are nothing less than magical and embody the true “beauty” of the movie.
However, the film misses some of the 1991 version’s charm, running 45 minutes longer than the original. It’s not that director Bill Condon, who also directed “Dream Girls” and the Twilight Saga, does something square or lame. And the CGI animation is excellent. It’s that the film loses the joy of the original cartoon.
The film is not a “kid-friendly movie” anymore. It’s a live action, adult version that has lost its innocence and joyfulness.
But if one can put the original — Oscar-nominated for Best Picture, don’t forget — film aside, it is still a charming, pleasant diversion with lots to offer.