Movie Review: Beauty & the Beast

Disney’s newest release of the beloved tale of Beauty and the Beast shines beyond the classic Disney princess film, leaving fans of the original animation anticipating more live action remakes to come.

Director and screenwriter Bill Condon, who brought to life Breaking Dawn Part 1 and Part 2 (2011-2012), Dreamgirls (2006), and Chicago (2002), returns with this year’s box-office hit, Beauty and the Beast. Condon’s film explores an enchanting romance that blossoms between a cursed prince and a beautiful girl named Belle. Like the animated version, the film is set in the quaint French village of Villeneuve, which is home to Belle, portrayed by Harry Potter alum Emma Watson, a confident and independent young girl. At the opening of the film, we are quickly introduced to Luke Evans’ remarkably convincing Gaston and his sidekick LeFou, played by Josh Gad. Though recognizing Gad’s voice as the talking snowman Olaf from Disney’s animated Frozen was distracting, his rendition of Gaston’s quirky best friend and admirer was so spot-on that the scene was able to hold its own. The film’s representation of Villeneuve is reminiscent of the 1991 animated version, with expert set design that captures the beauty of the charming small town.

Following the story of the animated feature, Condon’s film takes Belle on an adventure through the woods to meet the beast (played by Downton Abbey alum Dan Stevens) and his servants, all introduced through a seamless incorporation of computer generated images into a live action film. The stellar cast helps create a magical atmosphere surrounding the classic musical number “Be Our Guest,” as well as a few original pieces that highlight the beast’s humanity. In contrast to the animated original, the remake uniquely develops the character of the beast as a troubled prince with a difficult childhood, prompting audience members to identify with his backstory and empathize with his decisions and struggles.

…the remake uniquely develops the character of the beast as a troubled prince with a difficult childhood, prompting audience members to identify with his backstory and empathize with his decisions and struggles.

I first saw the movie during its premiere in Hawaii, in the reclining seats of the Ōlino theatres at Kapolei’s newest mall, Ka Makana Ali`i. While the comfort of putting my feet up in the theatre may have elevated my watching experience, the film has managed to put a two-hour long smile on my face each of the four times I have seen it.

Whether you are a fan of the original animation or not, the original music, delightful characters, and breathtaking settings of this live action version makes seeing it worthwhile. For audience members who have never connected with Disney princess stories, this live action revamp provides a refreshing dose of reality through its character’s authentic mannerisms and dialogue. Condon’s film balances the idealistic romance between Belle and the beast with barbarous fight scenes and the superficiality of small-minded villagers.

Longtime fans of the animated version will be excited over the film’s dedication to the original story. The choice to include the iconic dinner scene and maintain the caring and lighthearted nature of the castle staff is a testament to the film’s admiration of the original animation, while also providing fans with a fresh look at the characters that the original film brought to life.

After four weeks of being in theaters, Beauty and the Beast continues to gain fans as it tops the $900 million mark in worldwide box office sales, and $400 million in the United States. The magical telling of this classic tale is resonating with a diverse international audience. After only seeing the film once, I went home in a trance, with my mind continuously replaying every conversation, dance, and lyric that caused me to leave the theatre with a beaming smile on face and tears in my eyes. Disney’s newest hit will definitely be remembered for its beauty and unique adaptations of the original animation, and I encourage everyone who has not seen it or who doesn’t think they will like it to watch it sometime.

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