By Matthew Mendisana
When I sat down for “Beauty and the Beast” I found myself mulling over what kind of remake it was going to be. Was this going to be a remake of the famous animated movie, or more toward the original tale, the one published in 1756 by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont? Try saying that name five times fast. Well, to all fans of the original, you can rest easy. This is indeed a remake of Disney’s animated classic. So yes, all the classic songs are in it. However, there’s a twist. This is not just any remake, but a “live action” remake.
The film stars Emma Watson as Belle, along with Dan Stevens as the Beast. On a side note, if there are any Ian McKellen fans out there, you’ll be happy to know he joins the cast in the role of Cogsworth. The story follows Belle, the daughter of an inventor, who after being lost in the dark woods, finds his way to an old forgotten castle. There he incites the rage of the castle’s owner and is soon imprisoned. Belle comes to his aid, and after freeing him, finds herself acting as the new prisoner in a forgotten castle owned by a rude, and brutish beast, along with his cursed servants. Meanwhile, the egotistical Gaston, along with his partner LeFou, plot to make Belle Gaston’s bride, no matter what it takes, or who gets in the way. All the while, the servants of the castle try and work to bring Belle and the Beast together in the hopes that their love will break the curse that has entrapped them all these years.
Most readers probably know the basic premise of this story and how it ends. Were it any other film, I’d criticize it for following the cliché of “love conquers all.” However, this story gets a pass. Despite its age, its theme of seeing what’s inside over outside, holds up and makes for an important lesson for children. That, and it’s a fairy tale that was written in the 1700s, a time when people were happy enough just to see the age of 30.
As a Disney character, Emma Watson fits the role of Belle beautifully. Her singing is another point in the film’s favor as well. Even Dan Stevens manages to deliver a good performance, and is also a pretty good singer, even though the design of the beast was a little too CGI (Computer-Generated-Image) for my tastes.
“Beauty and the Beast” follows the original animated film’s plotline, but with a few alterations to the story. And without spoiling it, I’ll note that the additions did not hurt the overall story. To the contrary, they contributed, and even developed some of the characters a bit more, like Belle’s father and even LeFou, which is a good venture to follow. The changes don’t detract from what we expect, and at the same time add to the narrative.
Finally, what sets this remake apart from others is in its presentation. The original film was an animated full-length cartoon, while this film is live action; with real sets and costumes. This works in the films favor. It feels like effort was put into making the world match the original story, like they actually put work into making an old French village come to life. One moment we’re looking at the bright and carefree mountains of Belle’s village, before transitioning into a dark and dreary castle. It makes for some impressive visual scenes. It’s almost surreal seeing a once animated movie brought into live action, but somehow Disney managed and it worked.
If you’re a fan of the original fable and/or the Disney animated classic, then this is absolutely worth a watch, if only to see the story retold from a new perspective. Of course, kids will also love it. In fact, if this is their first experience with the tale of Beauty and the Beast, it will definitely be an experience they’ll remember. The film is rated PG for some action violence, with peril and frightening images, though parents won’t have to worry about the Beast, for while he’s presented as intimidating, he isn’t designed as completely grotesque. Through a strong presentation, along with a well-rounded cast, I’m happy to give “Beauty and the Beast” a 7.5 out of 10.
Marco Island resident and avid moviegoer, Matthew Mendisana is a Lynn University alumnus. While he possesses a bachelor’s degree in science, it’s the arts that attracted his attention. In his four years at Lynn, Matthew managed to achieve Magna Cum Laude status, earn three publications in the Lynn University magazine, make a short documentary featured in the university’s Film Festival, and created a radio PSA that was later broadcasted overseas.