It’s a tale as old as time… and one that we couldn’t wait to see brought to life in a whole new way. Disney’s live action re-imagining of Beauty and the Beast debuted on Friday and has taken the world by storm, becoming #1 in the box office worldwide on its opening weekend. With an all-star cast, an iconic soundtrack, and an enchanting story, this is a movie that seemed sure to succeed – and so far, it has. But is it truly as magical as you’d hope it is?
In short, yes and no. The film is absolutely gorgeous and full of incredible detail, and it builds on the original in smart ways – but there are other areas, particularly the music, where it doesn’t quite measure up. But the movie is far from a disappointment. Here’s the breakdown on the many highs and few lows of Beauty and the Beast.
Beauty and the Beast is one of Disney’s most beloved tales, so bringing it to life in live action had to be intimidating. Director Bill Condon did a wonderful job, hitting all of the major moments fans will want to see and threading in new material that enriches the story in a way that feels totally natural. Adding detail and backstory so seamlessly isn’t easy to do, but this movie totally pulls it off – and causes all the feels in doing so. We don’t want to give too many spoilers, so you’ll just have to trust us on this one.
As far as characters go, the cast of this film may be one of the most impressive ever assembled. Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Kline… The list goes on and on. While it’s hard to pick favorites among such a star-studded ensemble, I do have a few. Josh Gad is EVERYTHING as Le Fou, Gaston’s right-hand man. He slays every scene he is in and brings so much humor and heart. Plus, the man can really sing. Luke Evans is also amazing as Gaston, perfectly capturing a character who is by turn ridiculously preening and actually intimidating. Kevin Kline is so sympathetic as Maurice, Belle’s father, as well.
Of course, we also have to talk about Belle (Watson) and Beast (Stevens). Aside from the musical element (see below), Emma Watson is a wonderful Belle. She is smart, kind, compassionate, inquisitive, and fierce when she needs to be. Stevens brings the many layers of Beast to life so well. The subtle changes in his character – and Belle and Beast’s relationship – from scene to scene add so much to this movie, and iconic scenes like the ballroom and the transformation are just as impactful as you’ve hoped and dreamed.
As far as Disney musicals go, Beauty and the Beast surely tops more than a few favorites lists. While there are a few pitch-perfect numbers on the soundtrack of this new adaptation, unfortunately some of the new takes on the songs just don’t measure up. While it would be difficult to top the amazing performance of Paige O’Hara as Belle in the original animated film, Emma Watson’s singing doesn’t really even come close. Other than musically, I adored her as Belle – but this is a role that needs to place just as much importance on the singing as the acting.
That said, the soundtrack was by no means a complete disappointment. I absolutely loved “Gaston,” which brings some slight lyric changes and hilarious staging. “Beauty and the Beast” as performed by Emma Thompson (Mrs. Potts) is fine, though it’s even better when sung by Audra McDonald’s (Madame Garderobe) at the end of the movie. The vocals on “Be Our Guest” don’t top the original, but the theatrical, outrageously extravagant staging takes it to another level to make it one of the strongest numbers.
The new songs – “Aria,” “How Does a Moment Last Forever,” “Days in the Sun,” and “Evermore” – don’t really feel like breakout hits, but they definitely bring the feels and add to the story.
This is where the real magic happens. The story and the music are all well and good, but they can’t top the original. And while that shouldn’t necessarily be the goal of these Disney live action adaptations – they are labeled as “re-imaginings,” after all – they are most satisfying when they can add some new layer.
For Beauty and the Beast, that comes in the production design. From Belle’s village (The tavern! Maurice’s inventions! The marketplace!) to Beast’s castle (The ballroom! The library! Literally every detail!), each set is stunning and such a feast for the eyes. I’ve seen the movie twice already, and I’d like to see it several more times just to take in more of the details – I’m confident that there is so much more to discover. The complete change in design between the Beast’s castle pre- and post-transformation alone is incredible.
Bill Condon and his team did an unbelievable job bringing the world of this timeless classic to life in stunning detail – and the movie is worth seeing for that alone, on top of the other elements that make it magical.
Beauty and the Beast is in theaters now.
Have you seen Beauty and the Beast? What did you think?