Movie: "Beauty and the Beast"
Director: Bill Condon
Runtime: 2 hours 9 minutes
Release Date: March 17
Disney’s latest live-action reboot of “Beauty and The Beast” had many expectations to live up to. Fans wanting to relive the whimsy and romance of the original cartoon will not be disappointed, but for those wanting to see a deep connection between the two titular lovebirds will be left wanting more.
Director Bill Condon’s update does a terrific job of staying true to the original Disney Classic while still adding in modern twists and a sounder logic that the original and many other Disney movies are sorely lacking. For starters, Emma Watson’s Belle is more ostracized by her provincial town. She goes so far as to be an inventor and teach another girl to read, a heinous act in her bucolic community. Her loneliness and isolation, however, help Belle and the Beast connect on a deeper level than the original pair — their labels as outcasts bring them common ground.
While Belle and the Beast find a connection being “freaks," that’s where their onscreen chemistry ends. Emma Watson exudes the strength and intelligence needed for her character, but she falls short in her romantic relationship with the Beast, played by Dan Stevens. Stevens, whose Beast was given a more nuanced character development and glimpse into his spoiled past, makes a charming and convincing Beast, but his conversations with servants Lumiere and Cogsworth were more interesting than his ones with Belle. One of the three new songs, “Evermore," is a solo for Stevens, which adds humanity not yet seen in a character regarded as savage or spoiled rotten.
Where the movie really finds its groove is in the supporting characters. Luke Evans perfectly embodies Gaston and even gives his self-obsessed war hero a more malicious streak that satisfies his villain status. His violence against Kevin Kline’s Maurice is increased tenfold, while his narcissism increases exponentially.
Gaston’s henchman, LeFou, is the real scene-stealer of the remake. Josh Gad, who stole the show in “Frozen” as Olaf, encapsulates a loyal yet confused right hand man to Gaston. Gad portrays LeFou’s struggle and confusion with his feelings toward Gaston with a humor and depth that left me wishing we could skip the ballroom scene and see LeFou sing Gaston’s praises again — “Gaston” was the standout number from the musical.
Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts and the rest of the antique servants were charming and distinct, each actor adds a personality that makes one like and care for each cursed house worker. Two new characters, played by Audra McDonald and Stanley Tucci, played two separated lovers that offered a nice romantic parallel to Belle and the Prince.
The musical numbers are dizzying in their visuals. “Be Our Guest” is a spectacle that showcases Ewan McGregor’s gravitas and skill as a performer — even if it’s only through voice-acting. The opening number is an entertaining prologue that expertly introduces Belle as the feminist, intelligent outcast that she is. Her morning walk through her small village sees her attracting strange looks, visiting the bookstore and rejecting Gaston’s advances much more forcibly than the original cartoon version.
While the chemistry between Belle and her Beast is a little stale, the extravagant musical numbers and charming supporting cast are enough to make this worth the watch. For super-fans of the original, a few small changes are made to keep it interesting and entertaining.