Without fail, each Halloween for three Halloweens in a row I would pull out my yellow, itchy, tight polyester gown from my family’s addict, emblazoned with a kitsch little badge of my favorite Disney princess in the dead center, with this dress I was ready to take on the world, or at least all of my neighbors’ candy, for the night. For three years I was Belle, and for the next three years I had already moved on to Mulan.
Still, the tale as old as time held a very special place in my heart. “Beauty and the Beast” was one of the first movies I saw, or at least one of the first that I remembered. I would pull the VHS out more times than I can remember, probably driving my parents crazy in the process as I sang along to the lyrics of all my favorite songs, already on full blast on the living room TV.
And like most of my Disney childhood favorites, such as “The Jungle Boy” and “Cinderella,” it was due for its 21st-century live-action makeover.
The remake starred Emma Watson as Belle and Dan Stevens as the beast, both roles fit the actors very well and the chemistry between the two worked well as well. The new film also adds 45 minutes worth of content to the original, and includes additional scenes, dialogue and most importantly, songs. However, the all too familiar basics of the plot remain unchanged.
The additional scenes and dialogue attempt to characterize the protagonist and many of the side characters as well, but in my opinion, some of these scenes fell flat. Such is the case with the very forgettable laundry scene where Belle uses her invention of a primitive washing machine only to get her clothes thrown on the ground after trying to teach a little girl how to read. This scene feels just a tad bit out of place, and serves no real purpose other than to show off how intolerant and ignorant the townspeople are and that Belle doesn’t fit in in her town. However, I feel that that is already abundantly clear enough after her opening score “Belle” and that an additional scene isn’t necessary.
However, that’s not to say that all of new scenes added to the movie were bad. I think that the movie did a great job at fleshing out the relationship between the Beast and Belle, and that you can see the clear progression of their relationship from foes to friends to lovers. One of my main criticisms of the earlier film was the lack of time developing the relationship between these two, but I feel like this movie certainly did a good job at addressing that issue.
One piece of praise I’ll give the movie that I feel like other reviews haven’t really touched on is the set and costume design. I liked that in the opening prologue to the movie, the prince and his servants within the castle are dressed in proper 18th century french aristocrat attire. Belle’s everyday attire isn’t as clean and dainty as it once was, and its new, scruffier and more practical appearance is more authentic to Belle’s personality which is described as “ahead of her time.” When I first saw the reveal for Belle’s yellow ball gown in the trailer for the movie, I will admit I was a bit underwhelmed by its simplicity. But after watching the movie and seeing how Watson’s portrayal of Belle played out, I now think it was the proper choice for the character. Another thing that amazes me was the way that costume designer Jacqueline Durran was able to create a real-life costume so detailed and intricate for the fully CGI beast.
What left me very underwhelmed were the new musical numbers that the new movie featured, including “How Does a Moment Last Forever” and “Days in the Sun.” One of the songs I did enjoy was “Evermore” which was the first time the beast ever had a song just to himself in the musical. However, “Evermore” was also a forgettable song to me as well, and didn’t have the same timeless charm that others had, nor did it stir a strong emotional response.
Overall, I left the theatre with a sense of joy and nostalgia. This movie was great, it built upon things from the original and put a modern spin on the film. However, would I place this movie above the original? Nostalgia aside, I can’t say that I would. Still, I think this movie is a great movie that everyone should see in theatres while they still have the chance.
My Rating: 4/5 Stars