One of the films that I was most excited to see this year was, of course, Beauty and the Beast. I had always been a fan of the original, knowing all the lyrics and able to quote the entire film when I was still very young. When I heard that this film was being added to the list of live-action remakes, I was both excited and scared to see what #Disney had in store for us.
I need not have worried. #BeautyandtheBeast tugged on all the heartstrings that you could imagine, and in the right ways. From songs that are familiar and make you want to sing along, to a cast that brings the characters to life and makes them their own, it is amazing to see the animated film adapted with such love and care.
#EmmaWatson shines as a strong and determined Belle, who even goes so far as to insist that she "isn't a princess," one who wears boots instead of ballet slipper flats. She is an active participant in the story, even more than the original, trying to escape from the castle and not afraid to attack if she feels threatened. This is a more independent version of Belle than we've ever seen, and it's a refreshing twist on the "damsel in distress" trope that Disney movies had relied on for too long.
#DanStevens as the Beast is equal parts ferocious and sympathetic; he'll make you jump at his anger while tearing up in sympathy at his plight. A victim of circumstance, this Beast was a kind young man when he had his mother, but after losing her to the plague, his father was unkind and cruel to him, and it hardened the prince's heart. That connection helps to bring Belle and the Beast closer together as they travel into a world that is close to Belle's heart, where they discover they had similar childhoods.
In a stroke of true brilliance, #LukeEvans as Gaston actually isn't a terrible guy. While he likes hunting, when we first meet him and his pursuit of Belle, he just seems like guy genuinely interested in a girl. There are times where he pouts that reminds one of a lost puppy dog. This Gaston is less pure anger and defiance, rather, he's more calculated and determined. A war hero, he just feels he must constantly be looking for his next mission, whether it be an animal, war, or a woman.
#JoshGad as Lefou was enjoyable, with an over-the-top personality that oddly fits the character. While there are hints of the gay story line, it is actually quite subtle to the point of "blink and you will miss it" and would probably go over most children's heads.
The cast as a whole seemed to really enjoy working on this film, from the snide remarks between Cogsworth and Lumiere, to #EmmaThompson fussing and playing mother figure to all the characters. There are plenty of inside jokes for fans of the original, such as when Mrs. Potts gets called Chip's grandmother, as many folks have questioned why she looks so much older, and the final quote of the film is one that fans may recognize as one with which the producers really wanted to end the film.
Visually, it's stunning. The elaborate costumes and lavish set pieces transport us to a fairy tale world, and your eyes don't always know which detail to take in next. This film is the perfect mixture of live-action, the stage show, and the animated version, with new surprises mixed in to keep you interested. Disney once again proves that this film is truly a "tale as old as time."
Beauty and the Beast waltzes into theaters March 17th.
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