I attended an advance screening of Disney’s new Beauty and the Beast with my 9-year-old. The movie was breathtaking; you don’t want to miss a moment! With impressive, over-the-top visuals consuming the film from beginning to end, it’s an outing worth it just for the chills you’ll feel throughout.
The movie dependably tells the tale as old as time that many of us parents remember seeing as a kid when the animated classic came out in 1991. In fact, it felt like the movie was speaking more to me than my daughter – as every familiar song and scene seemed amped up to say “You know this part, so we’re going to max out the effects and throw in a few twists and surprises.”
But the movie lacked the silly playfulness that my daughter liked in the animated original. Basically, it was Beauty and the Beast, but for grown-ups.
It was enjoyable, but much of the 129-minute movie, including the romance between Beauty and the Beast, felt more forced than real.
Emma Watson as Belle was the biggest disappointment for me. She went through the motions of her role but nothing more. It was like she was too self-conscious about the camera or crew or something, so she never seemed to really get “into” her character. Sure, her character Belle had some setbacks – she went from being the outcast in her small village to “losing her father and her freedom all in one day” at the Beast’s castle. But at least the original, animated Belle had some spirit in her. Emma was dull. And her singing was mediocre at best. I’m surprised she was chosen for the role and think this would have been the perfect opportunity for a lesser-known actress (AND singer) who could really own the “stage.”
The rest of the all-star cast did well, including Dan Stevens as the troubled Beast, but Kevin Kline’s playing of Belle’s loving father Maurice felt the most genuine and touching. And Luke Evans, playing Gaston, was as hearty and realistic a Gaston as any actor could portray.
Josh Gad was cute as LeFou, but as a mom who’s seen and heard “Frozen” about 400 times, every time he spoke all I heard was Olaf’s voice. 🙂
A few times I felt dizzy from the special effects – as the camera twirled around a lavish room, and as the “Be Our Guest” sequence tried to impress. Yes, tried. The scene was a blur of computer animation gone wild. And what’s odd is that it should have REALLY impressed Belle – the only one the dishes and flatware were really entertaining – but clearly didn’t. I think I had far more excited expressions at my daughter’s first dance recital than Emma did as Belle watching the perfectly choreographed number of a whole kitchen come to life. I wanted to scream at her “A bunch of fancy dishes are dancing in perfect formation for you. Are you not amazed?” You wonder if all she’s thinking about is the actual camera crew in front of her.
There were a few new songs in the movie that attempted to give more depth to the characters like Maurice and the Beast. They were sung well, but weren’t as memorable as the familiar songs. “Gaston” was probably the highlight of this movie. The cast clearly had fun with it.
There were some changes to the original story, including a mysterious new character. And the last part of the movie was a great spectacle that brings you through a whole spectrum of emotions (have tissues ready).
Should you bring your kids to Disney’s new Beauty and the Beast?
This version of Beauty and the Beast is rated PG and is definitely not for young kids due to some intense scenes, such as wolves chasing and attacking Maurice, and later, the Beast. Plus, much of the movie’s content will likely go above young kids’ heads.
However, I admire the inclusivity of the film, with its racially diverse cast.
And with the attention that the movie has gotten about having an openly gay character, I will say that yes, you can’t miss the homosexual content. Though I think there’s too much attention about it being LeFou. It’s suggested to be LeFou (and yes he does some suggestive things), but there’s actually another smaller male character who deserves more of the focus. Small spoiler alert: At one point, the wardrobe puts women’s clothing and makeup on this character and two other men as punishment. The other two men are upset, but this character smiles about it, enjoying looking like a woman as the wardrobe says “Be Free.” He briefly appears again later in a dance moment with LeFou.
Regardless of where you stand on the issue, it’s something to be aware of so that if you bring your kids, you are prepared to discuss it with them.
In the end, the movie is a spectacle for anyone who saw and enjoyed Beauty and the Beast as a kid. But if you’re a kid, stick with the original animated version. That’s what my daughter says is still her favorite.
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BEAUTY AND THE BEAST opens in theatres everywhere on March 17th!