Director: Bill Condon
Cast: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellan, Emma Thompson, Josh Gad, Audra McDonald, Stanley Tucci
Released: March 17, 2017
Viewed in theaters: March 21, 2017
After I saw this movie, I tweeted, "I saw a movie where Emma Watson plays a character who loves to read and spends most of her time in a castle surrounded by enchanted objects." I'm sure I'm not the only one to notice those Harry Potter parallels! Beauty and the Beast is the latest of a slew of animated movies to be turned into live action films. And so far, I believe it to be the best. Now I may be biased because Beauty and the Beast, the one that came out in 1991 and is the ONLY animated movie to be nominated for Best Picture before there was an Best Animated Movie category and before they allowed up to ten slots for Best Movie, is my favorite animated Disney movie. I have also seen it twice in the past six years while it's been over a decade since I last saw Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty and God knows when was the last time I saw The Jungle Book. I've seen all of their remakes and Beauty and the Beast is my favorite.
However, those familiar tunes aren't the only songs in the movie. There are quite a handful of other songs. They're okay, but not very memorable. I couldn't sing you anything from them, but that might be unfair since I've known the original songs for the last 25 years. I had just assumed the songs I didn't know were from the Broadway play, but they're not. They were specifically written for the movie. Celine Dion sings one of them (called "How Does a Moment Last Forever") at the end credits which is a nice throwback since she sang the pop version of the title song. This time they have two current pop singers in Ariana Grande and John Legend who sing the pop version of the song. I think they're both talented (well, I might be a little too kind to Ms. Grande as I've only liked one of her songs), but I am not feeling their version of that song at all. Honestly, I don't even know why they even recorded a new pop version of the song. The reason they did it for the animated movie with Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson was to put it on the radio and I remember hearing that song quite a few times on the radio back then. Has anyone heard the Grande/Legend version on the radio? Has it even had any air play? It's not even the first song you hear during the ending credits! I've only heard it on Spotify. Of course, if they DIDN'T have a new pop version of the song, then I'm sure I would be complaining about that, so I should just shut up!
The characters are all the same characters from the original that we all love (or love to hate!) You have Emma Watson as the beautiful and bookish Belle who lives with her father, Maurice (Kevin Kline). Gaston (Luke Evans) is the arrogant and egotistical hunter who wants to marry her because she's the most beautiful girl in town (and that makes her the best! And doesn't he deserve the best?) and Le Fou (Josh Gad) is his goofy sidekick. There's a funny scene where we see Gaston saying, "You are the most gorgeous thing" and the camera pans back to reveal he's looking in a mirror. Even Philippe the horse is in the movie!
They must have been worried that Gaston wasn't unlikeable enough because they created a new storyline where, after Maurice has told the townspeople about the Beast and Gaston has asked him to take him to the castle where Bell is trapped, he punches him in the face once it's clear that Maurice can't find the castle, then ties him up to a tree and leaves him to the wolves. Another added storyline is that the Beast has this magical book, where, if you close your eyes and touch the page, you can wish to be anywhere you want to be and he and Belle go to Paris, the place of her childhood. We also get more information about the Beast's background in that he used to be a very sweet young boy up until his mother died, then his awful father groomed him to be a jerk just like him. In the opening scene of the movie, he is having a fancy party with all his fancy friends and turns away an old, haggard woman who is seeking shelter from a storm. She reveals herself to be this beautiful enchantress (personally she freaked me out...I thought she looked like Cate Blanchett as Galadriel when she becomes possessed for that split second in Lord of the Rings) and warned the Beast not to let looks be deceiving and thus cast that spell on him (and the other people in the castle).
The Beast lets Belle see her father in the magic mirror he has and he lets her go when she sees that he has been locked up. He apologizes to the objects, but they understood he let her go because he loved her. It's a little different in this movie, because, and correct me if I'm wrong, in the 1991 movie, if the spell wasn't broken, then everyone would remain the household object they were, but they would still be able to talk (and dance and sing); they would just never be human again. In this movie, the Beast would die and all the objects would turn into literal inanimate objects: no more talking or singing or dancing for them. Belle learns her father has been locked up for his talk about a Beast and talking teacups and a castle full of magic. (This place is a little crazy if you think about it; even Hogwarts didn't have talking teacups!) Belle defends her father and says that there IS a Beast and this makes Gaston and the others want to kill him and they lock up Belle with her father when she tries to stop them. Of course, she ends up getting them out and goes to stop the Beast from being killed. All the townspeople are in the castle, fighting with the objects. There was a scary moment where Mrs. Potts falls and you think she's going to smash to the floor, but she is caught by Le Fou who has decided to join their side because Gaston, he's learned, is not a very nice person. Belle is too late, though, as Gaston has shot him and she tearfully says "Come back, I love you!" to the dying creature. The last petal on the rose has fallen and all the objects are no longer alive. However, the possessed Galadriel-like enchantress has come to the castle and has witnessed Belle admitting her love for the Beast, so she lifts the spell and the Beast comes alive and becomes a human and all the inanimate objects return to their human forms. Whew! The townspeople are still on the castle ground and we find out that Mrs. Pott's husband and Cogsworth's wife were among them, so that was a bit of a new twist. The movie ends with Belle and the Beast dancing to Audra McDonald as the opera singer singing "Beauty and the Beast" and I'm thinking, "Ooh, I bet Mrs. Potts is mad that she's singing HER song!", but then she sings the next verse. I absolutely loved the dress Belle was wearing in this scene.
So this movie gets point knocked off for 1)Too many songs I didn't care about, 2)Weird Lumiere design 3)No "If it isn't Baroque, then don't fix it!" line. Other than that, I give it high marks.