“A Tale as Old as Time” – ‘Beauty and the Beast’ Movie Review 4/5

Director: Bill Condon.

Cast: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Josh Gad, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Kevin Kline.

PG cert, 129 mins

Cast

Starting off with the obvious: the cast. When I found out they were doing a live-action version of Beauty and the Beast, I searched long and hard for actors that could play Belle, Beast, Gaston, Maurice, Mrs Potts, Chip, Lumiere, Cogsworth et al.

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First promotional photo of Emma Watson as Belle

Let’s start off with the protagonist: Belle. Upon the announcement that Belle was being portrayed by the queen of feminism herself, Emma Watson (do I NEED to mention the movies she’s been in?!), I could not have screamed “YES!” louder than anything. Then I frowned and thought to myself, “Okay how the heck didn’t I see Emma Watson as Belle?!” And then, this promo photo was released, and I saw it. That was not Emma as Belle. That was Belle herself.

The next character I’ll be discussing is Gaston. Like, okay… he’s not as important of a character as Beast (played by the handsome Dan Stevens), but when I saw the promo photo of Gaston, the first thing I said was, “Oh, I get it now… Gaston loves himself so damn much, he actually auditioned to

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Gaston played by Gaston… ahem… I mean Luke Evans

play himself.” But alas, that was just a fantasy of mine. It was actually Luke Evans playing Gaston. Sigh.

And what can be said about Ewan McGregor and Emma Thompson playing Lumiere and Mrs Potts respectively? A definite match made in animated movie heaven! Same could be similarly commented on Ian McKellan as Cogsworth.

The pitfall comes here… the portrayals of Maurice, Belle’s father, and Lefou, Gaston’s right-hand man. Now this is NOT – and I repeat, NOT – about the actors’ abilities to portray the characters, but their physical appearance. I thought Josh Gad looked too good to be Lefou (and I also keep having these Olaf vibes every time I hear Gad’s voice… is it just me??), and I thought that Gerard Horan (who played Monsieur Jean Potts) looked more like Maurice than Kevin Kline did!

 

Plot: Compare & Contrast

We all know the plot of the story… but just how accurate was the live-action remake to the animated classic? It actually was, surprisingly enough, but there were these 8 differences that I could note:

  1. “There must be more than this provincial life,” sings Belle at the beginning of both movies. The animated villagers couldn’t understand the “most peculiar mademoiselle” because of her affinity for books. Yet the live-action version sees Belle not only feeding her own knowledge, but also opting to share that knowledge with others. The classic opening scene now has those villagers scowling at her for using a makeshift washing machine (remember, this is France in the 1740s) and teaching another young girl how to read.
  2. The live-action movie shares more about the Beast’s life before the curse that transformed him after he refused to be kind to an old woman. Not only is his scathing personality shown to audiences, but the household staff further explain how he came to be so cruel (and how they didn’t try to stop that from happening). Furthermore, it is revealed into further detail that it’s not just the castle that’s enchanted, but also the entire city, leaving everyone to forget that the royal family ever existed (and making sure no one looks for them). Also, a magical woman who is present at the end of the film witnesses the titular characters’ love and reverses the curse.
  3. Director Bill Condon revealed that LeFou, Gaston’s sidekick played by Josh Gad, is gay, making him Disney’s first-ever LGBTQ character. Of this, Cordon explains that, “LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston,” and that “He’s confused about what he wants. It’s somebody who’s just realizing that he has these feelings. And Josh makes something really subtle and delicious out of it. And that’s what has its payoff at the end, which I don’t want to give away. But it is a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie.”
  4. Both films see Maurice get lost while riding through the forest and seeking refuge in the Beast’s castle. In the animated version, the Beast walks in on Maurice’s intrusion and therefore imprisons him. But the live-action version has Maurice initially entering and exiting the castle freely, but getting caught red-handed while trying to steal a single rose for Belle — an annual tradition between the father and daughter.
  5. Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts and Chip have a new friend in the castle: Maestro Cadenza, a musician who is transformed into a large and ornate harpsichord on the first floor. He is married to Wardrobe — now named Madame Garderobe (pictured above) — who is housed in Belle’s room on the second floor. Cadenza and Garderobe are voiced by Stanley Tucci and Audra McDonald, respectively, and their subplot of constant separation has viewers empathizing with characters.
  6. Another new character is Belle’s mother, as the live-action movie explains that she died from the plague when Belle was very young. The reveal occurs when the Beast shows Belle a magical book that lets them travel to anywhere in the world, and she wishes to see her childhood home in Paris with fresh eyes. The two then discover a beak-shaped plague mask, and Belle later reassures Maurice about the truth he was never able to discuss.
  7. In the animated version, Gaston is a goofy egomaniac who pays off Monsieur D’Arque, the head of a local insane asylum, to pronounce Belle’s father insane and lock him away, leaving Belle free to marry Gaston. But D’Arques’ role in the wrongdoing is minimal in the retelling, as Gaston, played by Luke Evans, handles his evil doings against Maurice with his own two hands.
  8. The new movie gives the Beast his musical moment. “It would’ve been perfect to have Beast sing in the animated movie, but we just weren’t able to find that moment in that particular medium,” composer Alan Menken explained. “But on Broadway and in the live-action film, it’s essential that the Beast sing. The Beast is really the protagonist of the story, whose life has changed in the most dramatic way.” The ballad Evermore takes place after the Beast lets Belle go, knowing that doing so means his curse will never be broken. Still, he sings that she remains with him. Josh Groban sings another version on the soundtrack.

 The Final Verdict?

I give this movie 4/5 because of the poor portrayal of Maurice and Lefou, but overall, one of the most enchanting movies of modern times. Of a tale as old as time (pun definitely intended).

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Live-Action Cast VS Animated Characters
Credit to The Hollywood Reporter and Google for information and photos.
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