I don’t particularly like all the baggage that comes along with the term ‘review’ (which I’ll undoubtedly get to in a future post), but that is essentially what this is.
This is a tough movie the give an opinion about for me. I absolutely adore the animated version from the early 90s and unless you haven’t seen that version, there’s no way to avoid comparing the two. This new live action movie borrows heavily from the animated movie after all. In giving my thoughts I’m not intending to get too far into spoiler territory, but I do kind of assume everyone is familiar with the basic plot line of the classic fairy tale and especially the animated film. There are changes made between the two versions. Some for the better, some for the worse, so let’s just get into it.
The film opens with a bit of backstory on how the Beast came to be. It’s a more slightly more expansive explanation that we get in the animated version. Some potential plot holes are attempted to be filled which was a welcomed change. That idea permeates through a lot of the film, but not always as successfully as in this opening scene.
We are quickly introduced to Belle, who’s character also varies from her animated counterpart. This new version of Belle, played by Emma Watson, has a sort of irreverent attitude towards the town. She’s seen almost purposely walking in people’s way – not because she’s too caught up reading or dreaming to notice, but simply because she doesn’t seem to care. That is not to say that they didn’t make some positive changes to her character though. In this version, I feel like they do a great job of setting Belle up as a very intelligent and strong woman. She is now more of the inventor instead of her father. She isn’t afraid to stand up for herself or speak her mind. She is also briefly shown trying to escape from the castle at one point later in the film as well. It’s a bit too brief for me, and it’s quickly ignored, but it was still nice to see the filmmakers touch on it.
There are actually a number of changes to the plot of this film which I enjoyed. Maurice, Belle’s father (played by Kevin Kline), is now a much more normal fellow. He’s clearly a loving father, and he’s now not quite as absent-minded as before. The story line involving him and Gaston (played by Luke Evans) has some minor changes as well, but I feel they go a long way to improving the story as a whole. The Beast (played by Dan Stevens) is also given a lot more personality as well. He’s well-read and at times funny, which allows him and Belle to better connect which goes a long way in helping to make his and Belle’s romance a lot more believable. The Beast is also given an additional song towards the end of the film which is definitely the standout new song in the film for me.
It’s not all great changes, however. There are a few nitpicks I have with the film, and many of them relate to some changes. As mentioned earlier, the filmmakers appear to want to fill in some plot holes that exist in the animated film. They touch on the awful fact that all of the other people in the castle have been cursed because of the actions of the prince. This would be great if not for the ridiculous excuse they come up with for why it’s okay. It would have been better left unmentioned if they weren’t going to provide a satisfying explanation. Not a plot hole, but the filmmakers also felt it necessary to include some answers to the questions “Where’s Belle’s mother?” and “What about Mr. Potts?”. The subplot with Belle’s mother is wholly unnecessary in the film and does nothing to really add to the Belle’s character. I won’t get into Mr. Potts, but he serves no purpose other than to create an entirely new plot hole for me. There’s also the much talked about first openly gay character in a Disney movie, LeFou (played by Josh Gad). If not for hearing this before the film came out, I would have had no idea LeFou was openly gay. He definitely doesn’t come across as openly gay to me. To me, LeFou being gay is implied at best. I wouldn’t care if not for the talk prior to seeing the film. I just don’t understand what any of the fuss was about.
In the end, I definitely enjoyed the film and would say it’s worth a watch if you can stomach musicals. That said, the next time I’m in the mood to watch Beauty and the Beast I see no reason why I would go back to watch this version. I see no reason not to stick with the animated film, and for that I think this movie is a failure. It doesn’t set itself apart enough to truly justify it’s existence.