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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tale as Old as Time: Beauty and the Beast (2017) Review

Growing up, Belle was always my favorite princess (now that spot belongs to Rapunzel or Anna of course). A bookworm who feels out of place in her village and longs for something more...how could little Nicole not relate? I first saw a bit of the Beauty and the Beast film last January when I got a tour of Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California and they gave us a sneak peek. I've been waiting impatiently ever since! But since Belle has always had a place in my heart and the live action Cinderella is one of my favorite movies ever, I was very nervous that the movie wouldn't live up to my standards...


I am pleased to report that this film is in every way truly stunning and magical. It's a lovely adaption of the original, just changed enough to address all the plot holes that annoyed me as a child and make the Beast infinitely more charming. The CGI is absolutely incredible and the sets and scenery are breathtaking. I'll be surprised if it doesn't at least get Oscar nominations for costuming and sound mixing. I now want every single outfit Emma Watson wears in the film except maybe the yellow dress, which I've never liked.

Of course, one of my favorite parts of the film is the music...I'm so glad Disney decided to keep this one a movie musical! (And I'm sure they are too thanks to how well it's doing at the box office.) You can read my review of the soundtrack here, so I'll keep this short. I adore the new songs and have been listening to and singing "Evermore" almost constantly since I got the album. Emma Watson is no singer, but she does a passable job and I'm admittedly a bit obsessed with how wonderful Dan Stevens's and Luke Evans's voices are. I also love the handful of lyric changes, especially those in "Gaston" and "The Mob Song."

If you had allowed me to cast this movie, I certainly would have picked Emma Watson for Belle (since Laura Michelle Kelly is arguably too old for the part). She didn't disappoint in the least as her Belle was intelligent and spirited, yet still kind and compassionate. I thought that her acting shined most in the Paris scene, which had me crying!

I loved Dan Stevens in Downton Abbey and Summer in February, but I wasn't ready for how much I loved him as the Beast. He managed to act the part superbly despite the amount of CGI and his amazing voice absolutely floored me. I loved the changes to the Beast's character. By making him an intellectual with a great sense of humor, it made it much more believable that Belle would fall in love with him.

No one smirks like Gaston?
Luke Evans as Gaston was the star of the film for me, but the again I have a weakness for a well-trained voice. His Gaston was strangely charming at the beginning of the film, but was disturbingly sinister in a very real way by the end. One of my favorite changes from the original is that Gaston is a Captain and war hero, whose high rank in the town is well secured.

Josh Gad as LeFou was the perfect complement to Evans's Gaston. He was hilarious without being ridiculous and brought a moral complexity to the character that I didn't expect. This LeFou is definitely not the one-dimensional character of the animated film. I personally thought that his sexuality was subtle, but well done. I had initially been afraid it might be an offensively flamboyant portrayal, but it was actually so subtle that I'm wondering why people bothered boycotting it...

A Few of My Favorite Things:

  • Anything and everything to do with Belle's father, Maurice.
  • Audra McDonald as the Wardrobe/Mme Garderobe was hilarious, beautiful, and God that voice!!
  • How well this film grounded the story in location and time period.
  • The Prologue was visually beautiful and set up the story quite well.
  • Not any different from the original, but I'll never be over the cleverness of the last line of the Prologue ("For who could ever learn to love a Beast?") being answered by the song that immediately follows ("Belle")
  • The few bars of "Home" (from the Broadway production) being played when Belle arrived at her room in the castle 

A Few Complaints

  • I wanted to spend more time in Belle's village because it was so picturesque and intriguing.
  • I wanted to see a few more reunions at the end between the townsfolk and former enchanted objects.
  • It made me so sad that we didn't get to hear Luke Evans sing Gaston's solo from the Broadway production, "Me." 
  • I needed a featurette following the film immediately about how they filmed everything with the Beast because I'm so intrigued by the CGI that went into it.
For anyone who made it through this long review, if it's not clear by now, I highly recommend the film. In fact, I can't wait to go back and see it a second time! It's the kind of intricate and enjoyable film that will only get better with every subsequent viewing. While it hasn't surpassed Cinderella as my favorite Disney live action remake, Beauty and the Beast is easily a close second. 

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