SPECIAL EDITION D.C.’s Take: ‘Beauty and the Beast’

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The tale as old as time and song as old as rhyme sees new light as what might be Disney’s next classic. “Beauty and the Beast” takes the live-action treatment to one of the most classic stories of all time. Lately, Disney’s become the studio that’s best known to remake their most famous animated films and turning them to live-action. So, following in the footsteps of “Cinderella,” “The Jungle Book,” and “Pete’s Dragon,” Disney now takes on one of their most famous adaptations: “Beauty and the Beast,” and retells it to hopefully recreate the movie’s original magic. Or possibly just to see if that Stockholm syndrome thing actually has some grounds. Belle (Emma Watson) is a beautiful and independent young woman who's taken prisoner by the cursed Beast (Dan Stevens) in his castle. As time progresses, she befriends the animate household objects that were once the Beast’s servants. As the movie progresses, it’s revealed that Belle has a kind heart to the Beast, which could break the curse laid upon him. The original “Beauty and the Beast” is my third favorite Disney animated movie of all time, and it’s been beloved by nearly all its audiences with its magnificent animation and just how whimsical it was. Let’s not forget that it was the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture, back in 1991. I was excited when Disney announced that they were remaking their version of the tale. So, with the trend of live-action remakes and a cast that’s pretty well handled, this looked like this was going to capture the greatness of the original. And it's exceptional. This is almost a shot-to-shot remake of the cartoon. There are a few notable changes, but it didn't make any difference in my mind. Director Bill Condon (“Dreamgirls”) masterfully directs a fantasy that’s done better than most remakes. Moments that stood out in the original shine here as well. Along with the directing, the production and costume design are wonderfully lavish. The cast is, by far, the best for a Disney remake that I can even remember. Every actor is perfect in his or her role. Of course, there’s Watson as Belle and Stevens as the Beast, but the film also features Kevin Kline as Maurice, Belle's father; Ewan McGregor as Lumiere; Ian McKellen as Cogsworth and Emma Thompson as Mrs. Pots. They all do an outstanding job capturing the characters perfectly. Watson as Belle was the best actress to portray, in my opinion, the best Disney princess. Belle is someone who always has her nose in a book, but she’s also caring. Watson captures the traits that are classically Belle. Stevens as the Beast is also fantastic. There’s a sense of compassion and depth for him as the film progresses. His face is CGI, of course, but that didn’t necessarily bother me after a while. He and Watson have impressive chemistry. Hands down the best performance throughout the film is Luke Evans as Gaston. He’s absolutely the right choice to play one of Disney’s most narcissistic villains. He has the charm, arrogance and desire to marry Belle down perfectly. Ever since he was announced to play Gaston, I knew he was going to be great. Josh Gad as LeFou, Gaston's bumbling sidekick, is too perfect a role for him. The scenes with them together are some of the best parts, especially when they sing "Gaston." Speaking of LeFou, the controversy surrounding the fact that he’s now Disney’s first gay character is ridiculous in my opinion. He might have a crush on Gaston, but that’s kind of the impression I got from the original cartoon as well. Kids at a younger age probably won't understand that subtext or innuendo that's being shown or said. What this film does differently is that, while some of the mythology is still there, there are some new elements, and they actually work. The film explores what happened to Belle’s mother, as well as changes the Beast’s transformation from a childhood incident to happening when he’s an adult. He still remembers everything since. Changes like these probably won’t be noticeable at first glance, but I’m glad they’re in there. One of the best things about the original animated movie was the music, and once again, this remake hits the mark. All the musical numbers are well directed and everybody sings with so much flair in their performances. The original Oscar-winning composer, Alan Menken, even returns to compose the score. Some of the classics like “Belle,” “Be Our Guest” and, of course, “Beauty and the Beast” are still there and are all performed at the same level as the original. There are also some new songs added in, and they’re actually good, especially the song “Evermore,” which I thought was beautiful. The only criticism I had is that some of the direction was a bit fast-paced. There are some moments that I felt needed to last a bit longer to really marinate in the emotion. Overall, it’s pretty much the same movie as the animation, but done in a way that’s unexpectedly well told. With each passing Disney remake that gets better, it makes me hopeful for the next one that’s coming out: “The Lion King.” “Beauty and the Beast” is beautifully well-done directed and doesn't feel dull at any moment. Everything is captured on point. If you love the animated classic, there’s a lot of enjoyment to be found quite frequently, since this is definitely a faithful adaptation. It brought back a lot of nostalgia while I was watching. “Beauty and the Beast” is absolutely faithful to the Disney classic in music, enchanting and magical story and bountiful performances. B+
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