BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

Love and stories about love never go out of style.  These types of stories make us sentimental,  long for a lost love or a love that was never to be realized.  Disney’s Beauty and Beast stays true to form with this latest incarnation of  “a tale as old as time”!

This beautiful version has been transported into the 21st Century maintaining the integrity of the original Disney film. Belle, clearly ahead of her time, is portrayed as inventive, industrious girl, who is more interested in finding out who she is.  She has no interest in finding a husband or being a princess.

From the first frame to the last, I was in a serious ugly cry during many moments!  I would be remiss if I did not give a huge shout out to my STL homie Kevin Kline, who’s acting chops age like a fine wine.  The chemistry between he and Emma Watson is palpable, endearing and rich.  He kinda has that Gepetto thing going on from “Pinnochio”.

Emma Watson is perfectly enchanting as Belle with just the right amount of vinegar sass and sugary sweetness to pull off this legendary character.  Watson portrays Belle as a doll who has a great thirst for knowledge, a fighter, activist, and is the first modern Disney Princess.  However, when she and Dan Stevens (The Beast) lock eyes it is fireworks from beginning to end.

Dan Stevens’ Beast is initially is a bit dark and scary (ok for kids), but with the help of his friends (Mrs. Potts. Lumiere, Cogsworth, Garderobe, Plumette and Maestro Cadenza) his layers are removed and his heart is melted by the one he loves unconditionally.

Mostly cast with celebs who are not known for their vocal prowess (with the exception of the lovely Audra McDonald, Luke Evans, Ewan McGregor and Josh Gad), they all seem to hold their own. Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts was particularly impactful (though she can never do any wrong in my book).  My all time favorites were Josh Gad (Lefou), Audra McDonald (Garderobe), Ian McKellen (Cogsworth), who were adorably hilarious.  Luke Evans is so perfectly cast as Gaston that when he meets his demise, the audience bursts into thunderous applause.  Ya gotta love a juicy villain!

It was refreshing to see such a colorful cast. The characters are of different ethnicities, genders, and some were cheerfully flamboyant. It is a clear indication that Disney is opening the doors widely to diversity and embracing individuality.  The Computer Generated (CG) animation was sophisticated and very much ALIVE! Lumiere, Cogsworth, and the other castle characters were true to the original version, with their distinct personalities brilliantly executed during  “Be Our Guest” making it an absolute delight!!!

 

Another hilarious moment is kinda an ode to “The Sound of Music” when Belle goes singing on top of a mountain with the cameras swirling around her.  I love Bill Condon for that moment.  Condon is no stranger to musical projects, as he worked on “Chicago” and helmed “Dreamgirls” a few years back, leading Jennifer Hudson to her Oscar-winning performance as Effie White. In an interview with Condon, he stated,  “For 300 years it’s about looking closer, going deeper, you know, accepting people for who they really are…and in a very Disney way we are including everybody”

Of course, you totally can’t have a soundtrack of this film without including multiple Grammy winner Celine Dion with an all-new original song, “How Does A Moment Last Forever”.   Portions of the song are performed throughout the film and interpolated into the underscore before Dion’s full-length version debuts in the film’s custom main-on-end title design.  Says Dion, “Being a part of the original ‘Beauty and the Beast’ was such a magical experience in my life, and I’m truly honored to be a part of this film again.”    Needless to say, whenever I hear the original, I get a little choked up.

 

As for all the fuss about gay characters, Disney films always have at least one character that is assumed to be a member of  LGBT community (Jafar, Genie, etc…).  It’s bothered me and found it be rather hysterical the few brief moments those characters were given some shine.

Kudos to the entire production team from the special effects crew to costumes and casting — really exceptional work in all departments!!!

It goes without saying that these types of love stories live in our hearts forever.  Kids and adults alike will enjoy this re-imagined, live-action version of Beauty and The Beast.  It really does transcend the decades of time…

 

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