WARNING: SPOILER ALERTS (plural)!
Folks, let me start with a serious heads-up that this post contains multiple spoilers. If you’re trying to decide whether or not to take your child to see this movie, or wondering if you should go, read at your own risk. The following thoughts are 100% my own. I didn’t borrow information from any other website or individual. I will go topic by topic, so that everyone is clear where I’m headed.
1). MOVIE ADAPTATION/FILMING
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure how you could take an animated movie as perfect as the 1991 version of Beauty and the Beast and adapt it using real people. I couldn’t imagine how characters like Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, etc. could possibly be portrayed in effective manner. From the minute the characters first filled the screen, all of my “wondering” disappeared. I found myself caught up in what was (to my way of thinking) one of the most visually brilliant movie openings in the history of movie openings. No kidding. Over 150 people were used in the opening scene and every single one had a place. Everything fit together like a remarkable, breathtaking puzzle. As the story progressed, particularly as it moved to the beast/castle scenes, I realized the rest of the cast worked, as well. Speaking of the cast. . .
BELLE/EMMA WATSON: Again, I didn’t think Disney could come close to the original. I love the original Belle (her voice, in particular) and doubted Emma Watson, even before I saw her in action. My concerns were in vain. She was darling and her voice sounded like crystal/glass. So pretty. Yes, she was not the same Belle. Her inflections, tone, (even the pauses in the placement of lyrics) were different. But I didn’t mind. She made it her own. My favorite Belle line was a new one (in Paris) where she says “Take me home” (referring to the castle). Her attachment to (and love for) the Beast was much clearer in this version and I actually felt her growing attachment to him as her fears melted away, replaced by admiration and eventually love. Another truly great line came after the Beast saved her life. She said, “I need you to do something for me. I need you to stand up.” Until she spoke, you half-anticipated she would run away; instead, she chose to save him, in return.
FATHER/KEVIN KLINE: This was my biggest surprise! I didn’t even realize Kevin Kline was in the movie, but I loved him in this role. As you might recall, the animated version plays the father off as a bit of a buffoon or even mentally unstable. Not so, in this version. Belle’s papa is a loving, tender man who adores his daughter and would do anything for her. He’s also got a bittersweet backstory, which we learn as the story goes on. I adored the new song, How Does a Moment Last Forever. Wow.
BEAST/DAN STEVENS: I must admit, I came into this film with a crush on Dan Stevens, so I expected the best. . .and wasn’t disappointed. I have even more admiration for him after learning that he had to perform on 10″ stilts in order to have the added height to tower above Belle. I have no idea how the costume/makeup department pulled it off, but I actually felt like I could see Dan’s facial expressions through the hairy getup. I loved the backstory of the beast best of all. I felt I understood his motivations (what drove him to become an angry/unkind young man) after seeing his story from childhood. I was particularly thrilled to hear his (new to the story) song, Evermore. Still reeling from this song, hours later.
GASTON/LUKE EVANS: Okay, I’ll admit it. I couldn’t imagine how they could find someone to play such an over-the-top, arrogant, puffed up jerk. . .and keep him likeable at the same time. One of the things I loved most from the animated version was Gaston’s exaggerated characterization. And his muscles, of course. Luke Evans looked and acted the part. This version took his characterization a bit further and you REALLY got to see who the real beast in this story was. I still enjoyed the Gaston song, of course. I’ve always loved that tavern scene. His character arc led him from bad to worse as the story progressed. I actually grew to hate the man when he turned on Belle’s father, which leads me to my next character. . .
LEFOU/JOSH GAD: I knew about “the controversy” (i.e. the reason so many Christians have decided not to see the movie at all) before viewing, so I was prepared to be shocked over the portrayal of this character, to come away feeling that Hollywood was trying to shove an agenda down my throat. I barely remember LeFou from the original movie, but, in retrospect, realize he was always Gaston’s “attached at the hip” sidekick. Same here, only LeFou really lived up to his name (The Fool) delivering some funny, funny lines. Did he come off as effeminate? Yeah, a few times (including the last couple minutes of the movie, where you see him dancing from a lady’s arms into the arms of a fella). Did it seem like the kind of thing that would twist a child’s mind? Um, no. It was all SO silly and over-the-top that no child would find it an endorsement of a lifestyle; rather, the buffoon character you’ve come to expect in every musical comedy. (SIDE NOTE: If you REALLY want to twist the child’s mind, make him/her sit through the scary wolves scene.) I found it interesting that LeFou delivered the key line (takeaway) of the story when he came to the realization that the man/friend he’d always adored was truly a beast and not a good man at all. (From “The Mob Song” he sings: “There’s a beast running wild, there’s no question. But I fear the wrong monster’s released.”) I was horribly impressed with LeFou’s character arc/growth, which began the moment he realized Gaston was intent on hurting Belle’s father. In other words, LeFou’s thinking began to change/morph as he realize just how bad Gaston really was and for the first time he tried to summon up the courage to convince his friend to make a better choice. This was a terrific lesson for kids, one you didn’t find in the original movie. So many times people see others bullying/hurting people and don’t speak up. LeFou had to face the fact that his friend was capable of something truly evil. . .and this left LeFou with an obligation to (at least try to) change his friend’s mind.
MRS. POTTS/EMMA THOMPSON: I’ll be honest, I was really, really sad NOT to hear Angela Lansbury’s voice coming out of Mrs. Pott’s mouth. But Emma Thompson really grew on me, all the way through. She did a LOVELY job on her song, Beauty and the Beast. Angela Lansbury (who’s 92) is probably beaming with pride for her. It was so delightful to see her come to life at the end of the movie!
LUMIERE/EWAN MCGREGOR: I’ve been a fan of Ewan McGregor for years but couldn’t picture him in this role! I’ve always seen him as leading man material, and you barely saw him (other than the animated version. . .which is kind of a waste of a handsome face, if you ask me) BUT he did a fantastic job. It was rather bizarre to see an actual candlestick come to life!
ENCHANTRESS/HATTIE MORAHAN: I don’t want to give too much away here, but look for a l-o-t more about this character in the 2017 version of the movie.
There were many other castle characters to comment on, but I’ll stop with these. They all did a spectacular job.
NEW SONGS: The new film did an amazing job of giving us the same story we’d grown to love in 1991 and yet offer more/new additions, as well. The new songs were remarkable. Truly. I found myself completely captivated by every single one. Because they were new and fresh, I felt like I’d received bonus material.
BACKSTORY: This film did a far better job of telling Belle and Beast’s respective backstories.
TAKEAWAY: The 1991 version was a cute/compelling story but the takeaway wasn’t completely clear. This film left NO doubt in the viewer’s mind that exterior appearances can be deceiving. Best of all, this version really drove home the point that the Beast needed and wanted change. This part of the story was so beautifully done that it brought tears to my eyes. I couldn’t help but see some spiritual parallels. God can take a heart—black with sin—and completely reverse the darkness IF that person is willing to change.
BREAKING THE CURSE: I have to confess, the whole “prince comes back to life” part of the 1991 film has always left me breathless, but this version of the story brings the whole castle and everything in it back to life in such a way that I wanted to burst into tears (in a good way). There’s nothing like restoration, reconciliation, and a second chance at life to make the heart want to sing. You could feel the healing, the joy, the excitement as restoration took place. Made me want to shout “Hallelujah!”
Where do I start? Belle’s costume in the opening scenes was perfect! And, of course, that yellow dress. . .wow! And the townspeople had remarkable period costuming, especially the three flirtatious ladies who couldn’t keep their eyes off of Gaston. In the opening ball sequence, all of the ladies were dressed in white ball gowns. I found it breathtaking. Nothing, though, topped that opening scene where you saw all of those vibrant colors merged together in one scene/song. Actually, now that I think of it, ONE costume topped all: Beast’s dinner ensemble in a dashing shade of blue. I can honestly say the beast looked handsome in that getup.
5). THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR IF YOU’RE TAKING KIDS
SCARY MOMENTS: I’ve already mentioned the LeFou controversy above. I honestly don’t think it’ll be an issue with kids. I DO, however, think that the scenes with the wolves will terrify children. I watched a mom usher her little girl (who was probably four) out during a particularly gruesome scene. Let’s face it, folks: there’s just no way to bring these scenes to life without making them terrifying. Also, Gaston’s character is meaner in this version, starting with his treatment of Belle’s father. One of the most frightening scenes in the movie was near the end—the fight scene between Gaston and the Beast. I knew how it would end, but still found myself holding my breath!
6). FAVORITE MOMENTS
OPENING NUMBER: By far, my favorite moments came in the opening with Belle’s song. I simply couldn’t believe the filmmakers managed to take that near-perfect scene and bring it to life in such a way that I felt I was in the village with Belle and her neighbors. I was particularly impressed with the overlapping of lines as dozens of characters chimed in.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC MOMENT: Look for it.
FATHER/DAUGHTER IMAGES: I loved the opening scene with Belle and her father and the new song really complemented the scene.
MUSIC BOXES: Look for them. They’re intricate and beautiful.
BACKSTORY: Belle’s mother and the Beast’s mother. . .we get to see the impact these women had on their children.
BE OUR GUEST: I’ve been a Busby Berkley fan for over 40 years and was tickled pink to see Busby-esque blocking throughout the scene. The 1991 version used this style/method, too, but the new film took me right back to 42nd Street!
REFERENCES TO SHAKESPEARE: They’re in there.
TRANSFORMATION: I appreciated the moment of transformation when the castle and its inhabitants received new life.
HUMOR: I thought the new funny lines were a hoot.
BEAST’S SONG: Wow. Just. . .wow.
All in all, I highly recommend this movie for adults and older kids. It’s visually stunning, the music is breathtaking, and the characterization is lovely.