To say that the original Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite films of all time, might be an understatement. I absolutely adored the film growing up and the prospect of a live action version made me extremely excited but also quite a bit nervous. After all, how do you top a perfect film? I’m pretty sure it’s impossible. With all this excitement and nervousness, we headed out last night to see Beauty and the Beast in 4D. We’ll touch on the 4D element later in the article, don’t worry. The live action version of Beauty and the Beast has a lot to live up to. With literally every character being a fan favorite and a story that doesn’t leave much room for alteration, will this one be our guest in a long list of Disney favorites, or will it fall like Gaston from a castle spire? Read on to find out. And be warned now, this article contains LOTS AND LOTS OF SPOILERS!
As you’ve probably guessed from the trailers, this version of BatB is quite similar to the original in plot and structure. Many of the same songs are used and if you know the original film well, virtually none of the main plot points will take you by surprise. The question then often gets asked, why remake it at all? Director Bill Condon does a great job of answering that by taking every little chance he can to flesh out this story and give the world more of a realism. My favorite example of this is the fact that Beast actually does know how to read, which always felt like a problem given the fact that he’s a royal with a huge library. There’s also a heightened sense of urgency for Belle to get married as young girls who rely on their parents are rendered helpless after their parents die. This detail of realism permeates everything. Belle borrows books from the village pastor who has a small collection. This of course makes sense, because in a town where no one reads, how much business would a bookshop really do? From small changes like this to bringing in big parts of history like the plague and the war, Condon does a really great job of filling in the logic gaps of the original film, as well as giving theses characters more backstory to work with for why they are the way they are.
And speaking of characters, the cast is simply fantastic. While Emma Watson might not be the Bell you grew up with, she plays the character in the confines of the film very well. She’s a strong intelligent woman who lives by her own rules and believes in education and kindness. But even more than that, she’s a young woman who loves her father and wants desperately to know what happened to her mother, and this becomes a major point that is new to the live action version. In fact, dying mothers becomes a common thread for her and the Beast. I happened to love this since it really helped to create this commonality between them, but also showed just how much different parenting can affect a person. Luke Evens is brilliant as Gaston, striking the perfect balance of charming and awful, while Dan Steven’s Beast is the emotional wreck we always knew he could be. And while all the voices behind the enchanted castle characters are fantastic, Ewan McGregor and Emma Thompson stand out as high points, each bringing new life to fan favorites Lumiere and Mrs. Potts.
What has easily become the highest point of discussion about this film is the that Josh Gad’s Lefou is, for all intents and purposes, portrayed as gay. I want to address the critics, but first I want to say that everyone in my group of friends agreed that Lefou was one of their favorite characters. He’s far more three dimensional than he was in the original, and his love for a friend, and eventually realization that said friend is a madman is far better a srory arc than the original film. Lefou is hilarious here, not because he is the butt of the jokes, but because he is genuinely witty. In more ways than one, the ‘gay’ parts of this film, from Lefou wrapping his arms around Gaston to a henchman realizing he enjoys drag, were pure fun. In fact, at both of these points, the audience cheered, excited by something new and surprising in the film. I’ve seen some comments from the gay community who don’t like being portrayed in a film in this way, but keep in mind that true diversity means we can’t always be the hero or even a character who is in the right all the time. And yes, not all gay men pine for their straight men, but for some that IS a reality. Your experience does not invalidate theirs, and just like heterosexual experiences represented in films are different and varied, so too should be LGBTQ experiences. To the other naysayers, you know, the one’s upset about Disney’s gay agenda, well, all I can say is that my heart hurts for your children that they must grow up with such close-minded parents who would deny them a great film, because of ignorance and hate. And despite those that start their anti-LGBT comments with “No hate, but–” it’s still hate. In the end, I’m glad you won’t be seeing the film. You don’t deserve it!
One rant over, I feel the need to move onto another. The 4D experience involves the chairs moving with the action, snow falling during winter, wind blowing during sweeping scenes and water falling during rainy moments. While all of this is fun, it’s very unnecessary. Particularly the movement of the seats. While pulling back for a wide shot was a very cool feeling, rocking around like a rollercoaster during “Be Our Guest was super distracting. If you have the option to see the film in 4D, I suggest a pass. 3D for sure as it was surely made to be a 3D experience, but leave the 4D to the thrill seekers.
Take away the controversy and the special effects of 4D though, and what are we left with? An excellent film, that’s what! The music is stellar, the story is fully realized and the characters are deeply touching. Regardless of how many times I’ve seen the ballroom scene from the original, this version drew me to tears. The moment the castle characters fell silent, turned to antiques by the curse, I fell apart. And that’s because this version of Beauty and the Beast strikes a chord. It really tells a tale full of loss, love and beauty in the most unlikely of places. I left the film really feeling the message that beauty is what’s inside and that’s what really counts in a person. By the end of the film, love is everywhere. From Mrs. Potts reuniting with Mr. Potts to Belle finally dancing with her prince to Lefou finally finding someone who isn’t a big jerk, Beauty and the Beast is full of magic and I’m happy to say I subconsciously realized the child like smile plastered to my face the entire film.
Beauty and the Beast is damn near perfect. Everything about the film flies off the screen and fills you with this dazzling sense of magic and hope. No detail is missed and many are added to enhance the story and characters. While the story doesn’t change much from the original, it still manages to feel new and exciting, and that’s one of the most important parts of any remake. I highly recommend seeing this new version and I’m happy to report that it is easily my favorite film so far this year! Nothing proves this story is a tale as old as time like a remake that manages to be just as engaging and masterful as the original! Now go see it and let me know what you think in the comments!!