“Beauty and the Beast” opened in theatres on March 17 as a 3-D Disney movie, bringing to live-action the 1991 animated fairy tale. It is actually quite entertaining!
The French tale, La Belle et Le Bête, comes from an anthology written in 1740 by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. Liberties have been taken with the story ever since. But, for the modern viewer, the hugely popular 1991 animated Disney feature set a new standard for the tale. This newest version is meant to bring that story to live action, though the magical aspects still require CGI to pull it off.
Right away, in the opening credits, the Disney castle logo is replaced by a run down castle. We are immediately taken inside for the backstory: a magic spell turned a self-obsessed, spoiled brat of a prince into a ghastly creature with horns. That same spell turned the prince’s friends and servants into household implements and furniture. The only way to break the spell is for the beastly prince to learn to truly love someone other than himself, before the last petal of the magic rose falls.
Living in a nearby village is Belle (Emma Watson) a beautiful girl of marriageable age. She is considered by everyone in the village to be quite odd because she likes to read. Belle’s widowed father Maurice (Kevin Kline) is a slightly absent-minded tinkerer who makes amazing toys. A self-absorbed soldier named Gaston (Luke Evans) and his fellow soldier and sidekick Le Fou (Josh Gad) notice Belle; Gaston decides that, because she is the handsomest girl in the village, she must marry him.
One day while on his way to market in another town, Belle’s father takes a wrong fork in the road, is set upon by wolves and ends up at the derelict castle. Here is the catalyst for bringing Belle to the castle of the Beast. What will eventually unite Belle and the Beast to break the spell is a mutual adoration of books and learning.
Songs from the 1991 Beauty and the Beast are reused in this live version. Some lyrics written but rejected for that film have been brought back in this one. [Unlike the young adult female sitting behind me, please refrain from quietly singing aloud in the theater when your favorite songs are sung on screen. Annoying.]
Computer Generated Graphics (CGI) are used to animate the servant characters which include Lumière the candelabra (Ewan McGregor), Cogsworth the mantel clock (Ian McKellan), Mrs. Potts the teapot (Emma Thompson), Madame Garderobe (Audra McDonald) and Maestro Cadenza (Stanley Tucci). In at least one part of the movie, the CGI goes over the top to animate a wild “dance number” performed by the dishes, flatware and table candles (imitating some favorite 1960’s musicals).
Those of us who were big fans of the 1991 film may not be too disappointed in this version, so do go see it. The film is “Rated PG for some action violence, peril and frightening images,” so older children through adults are the intended audience.