REVIEW: “Beauty and the Beast” is a Fresh Update of the Classic Story

Photo courtesy Walt Disney Pictures.

By MJ Tidwell
BU News Service

Disney’s live action “Beauty and the Beast” pays homage to the classic animated movie while also doing the most with today’s movie magic. Scenes such as the classic “Be Our Guest” dinner extravaganza explode out of reality with fireworks of 3D special effects, though the film is still rooted firmly in a world as real as our own.

The 3D effects are as awe inspiring in this movie as in any superhero film. As magic plays a central role in the story, so too does movie magic by dropping the viewer into a world where anything can happen, like kitchen implements coming to life!

At the climax of the movie, a stunning zoom shot moves the viewer from the Beast’s desperate warbling at the top of his decrepit castle backwards and down through the frozen castle grounds in one unbroken shot. Elsewhere, however, the panning of the camera to show Belle’s suite or the infamous library goes too fast and works against the effects to create an air of dizziness.

The story itself plays out true to the original, with the classic songs and tiniest details like Belle’s outfits. Still, the movie feels modern and updated with the characters making pithy asides that bring fresh life to characters such as Josh Gad’s sidekick LeFou. His commentary on the villainous Gaston’s vain and tempestuous nature brought laugh out loud moments.

One in particular came when LeFou tried to finish his trademark song about Gaston by spelling his name. “G-A-S-T- I think there’s another T, but I’m just realizing now that I’m illiterate and I’ve never had to spell this out loud before,” he sings in a dramatic tremor.

The standout character of the movie was, of course, Belle. Emma Watson shines in her starring role as, essentially, herself. Bright and witty, Watson brings a sweet sort of feminism to the movie just as she does in her real life. Dogged recently by a scandal, critics have said that Watson betrayed her feminist ideals by posing for a semi-revealing photo shoot in Vanity Fair. Hitting back, Watson said in an interview that “feminism is about giving women choice.”

This sentiment was echoed throughout her latest film, with Belle trying to teach a younger girl to read, rigging up a washing machine from a barrel, defying the expectations of the men in her life and her whole village and through her signature line to the Beast, “can anyone truly love, if they’re not free?”

“Beauty and the Beast” gives the strong female role model young girls want to see by making literal references to Belle being held hostage and highlighting more obscure messages from the original film about women’s role in society and the expectations placed on them by men. These themes, coupled with the beautiful visual effects and classic songs that will be stuck in your head for days, ensure that “Beauty and the Beast” will become another family classic.

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