So… I’ve seen the 2017 version of Beauty and the Beast more than once. In fact, I’ve seen it a lot and now I’ve given myself enough time to let my inner fangirl voice take a deep breath. And with the film having opened with $178 million domestically at the box office, I think it is about time I gave it a proper review. So yes, for the final Rewind, we’re going dive into the world of the new Disney Emma Watson/Dan Stevens version. Prepare your nostalgic tissues, folks!
Much like its animated origins, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast tells the story of a cursed prince and a young village girl that become intertwined based on circumstance. Our male protagonist (Stevens) is a beastly creature, while Belle (Watson) is a misunderstood book worm, and after many moments of musical fancy and romantic dances, they might have the chance to fall in love and break some magical spells while they’re at it.
If you’ve seen the 1991 classic, then you know the majority of this film’s structure. But does that mean that this retelling should be skipped just on its very loyal dedication to the source material? No, because Condon has taken the time to make his Beauty and the Beast a tribute to many of the versions we’ve covered on Rewind. And it is one hell of a love letter.
From visual homages to Cocteau, to even sprinkles of past Beauty and the Beast material from the Broadway musical, Condon and Alan Menken have taken upon themselves to provide fans of the fairy tale with enough easter eggs to fill to the top of an enchanted basket. Some of the best are within the musical score of the film itself, including a fan favorite song “Home” used during the sequence when Belle enters her new room for the first time. You can tell that the majority of people involved with this movie really care about the product they were creating, and know their audience pretty darn well.
But when you push aside the tiny tributes left and right (which even include obscure musical tributes in the Be Our Guest number), what makes the new 2017 Beauty and the Beast a good adaptation? The answer simply revolves around the extra layers added to the “Tale as Old as Time”, which Condon and his team do a very nice job with – specifically when it comes to Belle and Maurice’s backstory. Many viewers have wondered why Belle’s mother died, and with the screenwriting team’s obvious interest in historical realism within this fantasy, we get that answer. A few viewers will say that some of these mysteries are better left unsolved, but I believe the majority of them give dimension to some already very believable characters – allowing you to see them in a new light.
Some cast members get a bit more flesh to their fantastical bones than others, but the ones that do deserve it muchly. If you’ve ever wondered why Belle in the original fairy tale might have had a fascination with her father bringing her roses, the 2017 version decides to tackle that subject – something that the original author, Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve (whom 2017’s Little Village is named after), might not have even thought of herself. Sometime these changes might seem like added fluff (like Beast having daddy issues), but when it comes to our leading heroine’s story, it makes complete sense.
But I’m sure the main reason why you’re reading this is to know what (according to this fan) is the deal with the cast. Condon’s Beauty and the Beast might have one of the most talented and interesting team of actors to exist in Hollywood history, and they all bring something to the table – though some are more captivating than others.
Emma Watson as Belle is perfectly suitable for the part. There’s nothing about her performance that is ultimately terrible (including her singing), yet it is obvious she enjoys playing the more angsty aspects of the role, and can’t shake them off as the film becomes more romantic. 2017’s Belle is as strong and passionate as her 1991 persona, but she doesn’t have the ultimate warmth that her animated form did. This especially comes across during the “Be Our Guest” sequence, where Emma seems just as bored as the on-set stories have led us to believe. Animated Belle was having a blast, where as Watson’s Belle seems to be counting the time on Cogsworth till the party ends.
Thankfully, Watson’s uneven choices don’t hinder the movie in any way, and she works as a key that brings us into the world of the Beast and his enchanted staff. Dan Stevens lives up to all the hype, and even though the CGI Motion Capture effects might seem a bit out of place at times, his performance as the Beast ultimately shapes the character in a much more rounded and (ironically) beautiful direction of true emotional change. You feel the love in his eyes, the comedic touches in his sense of humor, and the grand shift that takes place with his romantic feelings. It is just a shame that the film seems to quickly edit some of his best moments in favor of showing more of Watson’s more lackluster glances.
The same praise goes for the household staff, especially Audra McDonald as Garderobe, Ian McKellen as Cogsworth and Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts – all of whom understand lthe movie they’re in and run wild with that knowledge. Ewan McGregor as Lumiere is unfortunately the weakest of the bunch, essentially seeming to fulfill this gig as a favor (especially in the accent department.) Though he has the overall energy and charm, you can sense a tinge of snark from his line delivery.
As for the human cast, Luke Evans and Josh Gad steal the show as Gaston and LeFou, respectfully. The two bring about fantastic comedic stunts whenever possible, and even add their own theater-approved touches whenever possible. Luke’s Gaston this time around is a bit more calculated and more even more evil than his animated counterpart, while Gad’s LeFou (as you might have heard) is quite the opposite – allowing the audience (for those that choose to be inclusive) feel sympathetic to him. And though LeFou might not be the most progressive character (if you know to what I am speaking of) on film, I appreciate the lesson that Disney was attempting to tell here: Don’t settle for less, kids – which this movie’s LeFou certainly should never do!
Ultimately, with the added elements (such as more time with the Enchantress, developed backstories, etc.) Condon’s Beauty and the Beast is a fangirl approved joy ride of nostalgia that pays homage to what came before in the Fantasy film world. It might take a few daring risks that don’t ultimately pay off, but the ones that do really work. Will this replace the perfectly paced 1991 classic? Never. But does this serve as the love letter to an already incredible movie? Yes. And when every audience I’ve seen the movie with has ended their screening in applause and tears, you know Condon and his team did this animated masterpiece total live action justice.
And with that, I hope you enjoyed Tale as Old as Time Rewind! What did you think of Beauty and the Beast? Did you see the new version yet? Tell us all your thoughts about the new movie down below. When the home release comes out, expect for a more spoiler-filled version of this review to come out – since trust me, I have a lot more feelings I’d like to discuss.