After thinking that the 10 a.m. show wouldn’t be too crowded, I arrived early to find patrons standing in line for tickets. I was surprised to see tiny tots, two years old and up, wiggling to get in and demanding popcorn for breakfast. Naturally, my first thought was that the next two hours would turn into a screaming match of restless, bored kids. Instead, they were glued to their seats. And it’s no wonder why.
The movie is a delightful live version of a familiar tale with human beings, a furry beast, and characters who have given life to the 1991 animated version. Disney magic is sprinkled throughout the film with such wonder, that most of that time I sat dumbfounded like a child. I haven’t felt such awe and wonder since my love and obsession with Sleeping Beauty when I was a little girl. The music, the sets, the costumes, and, of course, the candlestick, clock, armoire, teapot and cup, among others, are as alive as the flesh and blood in their cursed existence.
At the beginning, I did have some concern about Emma Watson playing Belle, but for the most part (except for a few scenes), she fit the part fine. My only complaint was her rather lackluster reaction to “Be Our Guest” while she sat at the table, while I on, the other hand, had my mouth dropping open in utter amazement. And you must admit, too, that since this is a very French town, her English accent doesn’t quite fit in – of course, it’s a mishmash of French accents, American, and English thrown into one movie from all the stars.
Luke Evans does a fine job as the conceited, but crueler, Gaston, while Josh Gad is his admirer as LeFou, who comes across as predicted with his admiration of the opposite sex. Had it not been mentioned beforehand, you probably wouldn’t have picked up on it until the very last scene. LeFou is not the only character to display a different orientation, as an added cross-dressing moment enjoyed by one character is part of the townspeople battling with the furniture. Could the innuendos have been eliminated? Absolutely. For a children’s fairytale, it’s unneeded but Disney didn’t ask for the public’s opinion during the filming.
Kevin Kline plays a fairly convincing Maurice. Bravo to the wolves, horse, enchantress, townspeople, and everything else moving about in the doomed castle. The songs were delightful, and as far as voices, I frankly didn’t think a world-class soprano was needed among the scenery and choreographed scenes to make it any move lovely.
Belle’s dress and the lovely waltz while the iconic song is sung by Emma Thompson (rather than Angela Lansbury who has owned the tune for years), is beautiful. It’s touching and the perfect fairy tale moment of two people falling in love – even though one is really hairy.
Though you do not see much of Dan Stevens out of the beastly costume, he is quite convincing while in it, making you wonder if he was walking on stilts. The movement of his eyes and mouth looked natural, even though the beast definitely could use some dental work. The only time I thought it looked rather fake, is when he is lying in bed without a shirt recovering from his wounds. His fur looked more like a stuffed animal from a toy store and rather tacky.
The tale as old as time is true to the original but elaborates a bit more on the unspoken in the animated version, such as what happened to Belle’s mother and more background on the Prince. You also don’t have to scratch your head about how Belle gets the beast onto the horse after the fight with the wolves. It’s the little plot holes that are filled, which help to round out this version on a deeper level.
As much as I liked the remaking of Cinderella in live action, this one has its merits as well, keeping a tale as old as time relevant for future generations. The iconic message of learning to love and looking beyond appearances in others will endure because of this newer version that brings mere animation into brilliant life and colors.
And, yes, I shed a tear at the end.