I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t a big fan of the animated original Disney Beauty & The Beast. I was much more of an Aladdin or Lion King fan (both of which I must have watched DOZENS of times!). But the lure of Emma Watson and all the hype got the best of me this weekend and I hit the theater with a friend who had been wanting to see it.
I think the biggest impression that I came away with is how beautiful the movie is – Belle’s small French town and the surrounding countryside is so colorful, so detailed, that it is truly immersive. How much was real vs sets versus green-screened I can’t say, but it was breathtaking!
Interestingly, the same level of detail was more distracting once the scenes moved to the Beast’s castle – the “before the curse” ball scene just came off as ridiculous (way too much eye makeup on men and women alike – it may have been period authentic but oy!), although it did have the effect of making me feel like the prince deserved to be cursed, a stance which I of course lightened on as the movie progressed.
The CG and live action was blended very well and Lumiere and Cogsworth and the much of the rest of the castle’s cursed staff seemed like the real objects they represented rather than being overly cartoony/fake. The beast was likewise very believable and the scenes with him and Belle were quite seamless.
While not all of the cast are known as singers (Emma Watson being a good example), to me the singing was more than adequate. The one song that I didn’t like, sadly, was probably the second most famous one other than the eponymous theme – Be Our Guest. To my sensibility, it was just over-the-top with lots of lights and psychedelic visuals. It just didn’t fit with the rest of the movie’s aesthetic – they just seemed to try too hard to make it special and it backfired. I also couldn’t help but note that it didn’t appear as if Belle actually got to eat anything during the entire song, despite the various courses flying by her, which makes them rather poor hosts indeed, ironically.
Speaking of Belle, I very much enjoyed Watson’s take on an independent, extremely intelligent Belle who is aware that she doesn’t fit in with the rest of her small village (teaching little girls to read – the nerve!!!) but isn’t willing to change who she is. She’s the kind of much-needed Disney Princess of which we’re finally seeing more (Merida, Elsa, and Anna as examples). I would certainly be more approving of my neice wanting to dress up like Watson’s Belle than the animated version.
Overall, I really enjoyed the movie and was drawn into the narrative, despite my lack of interestin in the original. Based on the box office so far, I think it’s safe to say that the movie has found an audience of both fans of the original animated movie and new fans (many of which are likely young enough that their parents remember seeing the animated version when they were young).
Disney’s Beauty and The Beast is currently showing in wide release in both standard and 3D.