Beauty and the Beast recounts the story of Belle (Emma Watson) a young woman living in a French village. She’s different, and her love of books and dreams of bigger things make her an outsider. When her father (Kevin Kline) is captured by a beast (Dan Stevens) in a castle, Belle does a deal to be the beast’s prisoner. Household items in the castle are alive, and they try to help Belle, who they believe might break the curse that the beast is under.
RATED: PG for mild themes and violence.
AUDIENCE: Many people who watched 1991’s Beauty and the Beast as children will now have their children. Disney must be hoping that generations of movie-goers will want to share this new version.
WHAT’S GOOD: Hardcore fans of the 1991 animated Beauty and the Beast musical should be happy to discover that not too much has been changed. Most of the song and dance routines are very similar and, despite being billed as a “live action” version, the new Beauty and the Beast have so much computer-generated imagery that it is pretty close to an animated movie. Among the celebrity British voices for the famous cutlery and furniture in the Beast’s castle, Ewan McGregor is terrific as French candelabra Lumiere. The best of the human participants is Luke Evans, who has a ball as arrogant pretty boy Gaston.
WHAT’S NOT: Surely, the question we all ask as we go to see such a remake is: why did they bother? I’m not sure that burning question was answered by the new Beauty and the Beast. Yes, it’s respectful and colourful and entertaining, but it doesn’t conjure its own magic. Instead, it relies on the strengths of what it is ripping off, so the best bits are like echoes. The addition of Harry Potter star Emma Watson as a real-life Belle mostly helps to reinforce that corny or convenient parts of the plot are easier to swallow when cartoon characters are involved. Plus, having the Beast as a CGI character next to flesh-and-blood Watson adds another layer of distance and detachment for the viewer.
SPIRITUALLY SPEAKING: Beauty and the Beast stirred controversy before it was released. This is the first Disney movie with an openly gay character. Le Fou (Josh Gad) is Gaston’s sidekick and lapdog, and those behind the new Beauty and the Beast decided to make his sexuality a feature in the film. Le Fou’s sexual identity is more subtle and contained than the hype suggests, but it is a notable element that children might ask about. The inclusion of this character points mainly to how Western Society has changed its approach to relationships since the 1991 Beauty and the Beast was released – and not so much that this fairytale has shifted its core presentation of true love. Speaking of which, why don’t we spend more time debating Beauty and the Beast’s confusing message about whether inner or outer beauty is to be valued?
RELEASE DATE: March 23, 2017
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