It was with great anticipation that we waited for tonight, the opening of Disney’s latest release, Beauty and the Beast. A tale as old as time, Beauty and the Beast is back on the big screen this weekend, this time in a live-action format. As we have come to expect from Disney Studios, the film’s gorgeous costumes, its breath-taking sets, delightful special effects, and its current themes are certain to appeal to modern moviegoers.
Disney piqued our curiosity through social media. We first learned of this adaptation through Facebook trailers that used a split-screen method to show viewers key scenes from the 1991 classic and the 2017 overhaul, and we sentimentally fell intrigued with the intentional similarities. We were interested to see how the animated version we knew would translate to the live-action format. Would the dinner plates perform in Technicolor brilliance? Would the beast be realistic enough to fear … and to love? Would Gaston be as irresistible in human form as he thinks he is in Animation Land? (To our delight, Gaston, played by Luke Evans – Fast and Furious 6, 2013; Girl on the Train, 2016 – can SING, though we still dislike the character as much as we did in 1991.)
After our enjoyable experience with the recent Cinderella remake, we trusted that this film would measure up, or even surpass its predecessor.
We entered the sold-out theatre on opening night. Our expectations were high. Instantly, we were captivated by a flashback that shows the prince (before the spell) entertaining at a ball that makes bibliophiles like Belle think of Edgar Allan Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death.” It’s dark and ominous, symbolizing the joyless life the prince lives even before he transforms. Soon, the flashback melts away, and we are in the present setting, enchanted and singing along with the familiar lines of the opening song. Fans will know the words. (Oh, and there are a handful of other literary allusions that will make your high school English teacher proud.)
The movie remained consistent for several scenes, and that was satisfactory for us, but Disney must have anticipated that some audiences would appreciate something original with the “remake.” Thus, they incorporated a story unexplored in the animation – the backstory of Belle’s mother. (Rarely do we see a mother figure in a Disney story line. Have you noticed this too?) Viewers will appreciate this explanation and the more developed and sympathetic character that is her father.
As a mother and teacher, I first thought of the one of the strongest themes of this plot: “Don’t judge one by his or her appearance.” Yes! We certainly can’t argue with the importance of that message, and this adaptation delivered on that point, but it provides more. Feminists will be pleased to see Belle is the inventor in this version, not her father. (Wait until you see what she engineers!) Disney offers a new dimension, a modern message for the young women in the audience: There is so much more for you than just what you have planned for yourself. This lesson, along with others about how to behave when others mock you make this movie one to share with young women. Additionally, the key scene when Belle climbs the bluff to “the great wide somewhere” is more than just literal.
Viewers will also appreciate a new understanding to His Royalty’s roar. He’s not just having a bad fur day.
All-in-all, this film is good. We sang, we laughed, we reminisced, and (we admit) we cried more than just a few quiet tears due to its heartbreaking undercurrent of homesickness. We think it will make a good film for your family to share this weekend. Its PG rating is due to the scary moments you may remember from the animation – creepy woods, aggressive wolves, a fight scene at the resolution. Additionally, if you’ve read other reviews, you realize you may have to field some questions about the relationship between LeFou and some of the other characters, but the tendencies may be ambiguous enough to sneak past young viewers. We encourage each of you to take this issue into consideration. Furthermore, the notion that a person needs somebody else to complete him or free him from some sort of captivity is somewhat perturbing, but the movie offered us more enjoyment than disappointment. Thus, we invite you to “be our guest” and spend a little time with Beauty and her beast.