Beauty and the Beast has all the markings of a traditional Disney movie.
It’s cute, corny and as over-the-top as it can be. There are moments when those traditional ingredients that make up a Disney film can be obnoxious and over-stay their welcome. Still, Beauty and the Beast is a charming movie that uses the talents of its lead actors to successfully recreate and redesign one of its classic stories.
The best part about the movie is the relationship between Belle and Beast, who are played by Emma Watson and Dan Stevens. The movie is a whimsical romance and it relies entirely on the chemistry between the two characters. Watson and Stevens are enchanting, with Watson stealing the show in every scene she appears in. The adoration the two have for each other is palpable and it’s that earnest love which makes the pair enjoyable to watch.
Unfortunately, the same can not be said for the supporting cast of characters. In the animated movie, some of the best characters were Lumiere, Cogsworth, Plumette, Chip and Mrs. Potts. While these characters have moments when they’re genuinely funny, charismatic and entertaining, for the most part, they ironically take away from the magical feeling the rest of the movie is full of when Beast and Belle are there. They’re not the worst part of the movie — that is solely reserved for the ego-centric villain, Gaston — but they weren’t as wonderfully strange as the animated versions were.
Despite its smaller shortcomings, Beauty and the Beast is pretty close to being as luxurious and wonderful as the original film was. There are plenty of emotional moments that may leave you slightly teary-eyed. When “A Tale as Old as Time” begins to play, watching Belle and Beast dance around the ballroom in their iconic costumes, it’s hard to suppress the flutter in your chest.
Beauty and the Beast is almost an exact retelling of the story from the 1991 animated film. Belle is a smart, fearless woman, full of wanderlust and yearning for a bigger world that exists outside the confines of her small town. When her father becomes imprisoned in a hidden castle that exists off the beaten path, she finds herself a victim of the very beast her father encountered. As a prisoner of the beast, the two slowly build a relationship with one another, going from sworn enemies to friends before finally falling in love.
While Belle is trapped within the castle, however, a local soldier named Gaston tries to figure out a way to convince Belle to marry him. When Gaston discovers she’s been taken captive by the beast in the castle, he rounds up the villagers and descends upon the manor to finally confront the beast himself.
All of this is, of course, told through a number of songs. Beauty and the Beast is a musical before anything else, and on that front, the movie exceeded any of my expectations going in. While the amount of songs can feel overwhelming at times, each performance is dazzling. One of the standout tunes, “Be Our Guest,” combines the talents of the cast with Disney’s impressive CGI technology to create a memorable number. Much like The Jungle Book, which used the same kind of technology to create its semi-live-action movie, the way the computer generated characters appear on screen and interact with Belle is very neat.
The highlight of which can be seen whenever Belle and Beast are together. I said earlier that the chemistry between the two is palpable — and it is. But it’s even more of an impressive feat considering that one of the characters was created entirely through the use of CGI. There are moments where you forget the beast isn’t real — everything about him feels humane. That’s both a testament to the level of depth that exists in the actual CGI presentation and Stevens’ acting.
Watching Watson and Stevens on screen is nothing short of a treat. The two bring a warmth to the movie that would otherwise be missing. They make the fictional, magical world that director Bill Condon beautifully created feel very real. When a film is so heavily reliant on magic and suspension of belief, it must have real, grounded characters. Belle and Beast provide that much needed realism, but it’s thanks to the strong performances from Watson and Stevens.
Simply put, I don’t know if the movie would have succeeded without them. The relationship between Belle and Beast quickly becomes the only thing that you care about, and that’s only because Watson and Stevens’ acting is superb.
Without them, the movie feels like it’s missing something. The supporting cast just isn’t strong enough to hold their own and they don’t provide any reason to care about them. Even the relationship between Mrs. Potts and her son, Chip, feels inauthentic and forced. It’s one of the most disappointing aspects of the new film — considering just how memorable and beloved the supporting cast was in the animated movie. Even Gaston, who we’re supposed to hate, just comes off as more annoying than anything else. The way he treats the villagers, Belle and anyone else, is obnoxious, but there’s never a reason given to actively hate him. You won’t like him, but you also won’t care about him enough to do anything other than sigh when he appears on screen — and not because of his muscles.
Despite some of its flaws, Beauty and the Beast is enchanting, wonderful and captures the heart of what made the original so beloved in the first place. Condon stays true to the themes and styles that made the original so beloved in the first place, but there’s also something unique about this adaptation that makes it feel entirely new. It’s the combination of nostalgia and modernity that will appeal to both fans of the original film and those who have never seen it, ushering in an entire new generation of Beauty and the Beast fans. I was concerned about this movie going in, considering how classic the original is, but I walked away from the movie feeling content and humming “A Tale as Old as Time.”