Review – Beauty and the Beast

A tale as old as time…

Bill Condon directs the live-action rendition of the Disney classic, Beauty and the Beast.  This movie has been one of the most highly anticipated Disney films to be reincarnated back to the big screen as a live-action film.  The task was tall, not just because of the pressure of living up to the hype, but also from the artistic standpoint of re-creating a known, animated world into a somewhat realistic story starring human actors of today, as opposed to the drawn ones from our childhood.

Condon, who has already had success directing a popular franchise, transitioned from Bella in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Parts 1 and 2, to Belle in this largely popular version of the timeless classic.

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Emma Watson was majestic in Beauty and the Beast as Belle, in what could be the defining role of her career (Sorry Harry Potter fans).

I have never been a huge fan of the Beauty and the Beast story.  I watched the animated movie as a child of the 1990s, but I admit that it never really intrigued me.  However, I was drawn to this adaptation not only because of the hype, but also because as a cinema fanatic, I wanted to see from a creative standpoint how this version stood up to the inherited pressure of its own success and comparison to previous attempts made over the past hundreds of years.

As I watched the movie, I felt like this live-action adaptation was more of a live-action replica.  A lot of the scenes from the film quickly prompted nostalgic flashbacks and triggered memories of the scenes from the first and only other time I saw the animated rendition 25 years ago.  If you are a glass half-full person, then you could say that’s a great thing because it (hopefully) brings back good memories of yesteryear and a potential opportunity for you or others you know to pass down a new tradition to this generation of kids.  This is their Beauty of the Beast, just like the 90s cartoon was ours.

However, if you are the glass half-empty type, then a replica doesn’t necessarily work for you.  You probably wanted to see some familiar scenes, but mostly were looking forward to seeing something new.  You were looking forward to seeing new scenes, or at least new variations of familiar ones.  Instead, I basically got a human re-enactment of an animated classic.  I may be in the minority, but I felt like that was a little bit of a bummer.

Before the release of the film, a lot had been made of Cogsworth (for those not familiar, Cogsworth is the clock character) being openly gay and that this was an attempt by Disney to covertly announce their unity with the homosexual world.  After watching the movie, I realized that I didn’t even notice.  I’m not sure what scenes were supposed to be flamboyant, but instead, any scenes of Cogsworth being openly gay were extremely subtle at best.  To be honest, I don’t even know why this was an issue to begin with, and the fact that it was a notable ploy is a shame.  A character’s sexuality, especially in a movie targeted for children, should not matter even a little bit.

If anything, I think Disney made an effort to display affection for interracial romance.  Once the object characters were freed of their curse and brought back to human form (sorry, but there’s no spoiler alerts for a story that’s like hundreds of years old), we find out that at least two couples are of mixed race (Madame Garderobe with Maestro Cadenza, as well as Lumiere and Plumette).  However, I don’t recall reading or hearing anything about that before seeing the film.  We didn’t hear anything about it because it isn’t and shouldn’t be an issue, just as a gay character shouldn’t be, either.  What is it about Disney films that keep them in the spotlight of social issues all the time?  Can’t we just enjoy an innocent fairy tale once in a while?

Despite the fact that I was looking for more new, original elements in this version, I did enjoy the movie overall.  The ensemble acting was very strong, and the casting was right on the money.   Specifically, Emma Watson was a refreshing and lasting new face to Belle.  Disney has always had a knack for having two memorable sidekicks to their main characters.  We have seen Timon and Pumbaa in The Lion King, Sebastian and Flounder in The Little Mermaid, and Lumiere and Cogsworth here in Beauty and the Beast with Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellen delivering suburb and classy performances as the classic duo.

Since the animated version of Beauty and the Beast in 1991 was nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture, my bar for this movie was extremely high.  While it didn’t exceed my expectations, it still was a solid film.  Even though I was looking for more originality and less of a Broadway feel, this Beauty and the Beast still delivered a quality version of a timeless classic for the “2K” kids.



*Correction* – I mistakenly said Cogsworth was the gay character in the movie. Although Cogsworth is played by Ian McKellen, an openly gay man in real life, it is actually Lefou (played by Josh Gad, a heterosexual) who is at the center of attention for being homosexual in the film. I was confused by all the irony. My apologies.