BEAUTY AND THE BEAST – A Review by John Strange
In 1991, Walt Disney's fabled animation team debuted Beauty and the Beast. Their work is an amazing story of love and hope triumphing over everything. While CGI was getting better, animation was really the only way to tell a story like this one.
The transformation of the humans into beasts and inanimate objects like clocks and candlesticks was something that is central to this fable. In 1991, the animators gave us a vision that has become a part of our lives and mythos. In 2017, director Bill Condon and the writers have given us a new vision of this same transformation that works beautifully!
This movie is filled with the songs and music we grew up with, performed by a cast that is a dream team. Emma Watson (Belle) has totally thrown off her early mantle as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films with her performance here. Her singing ability surprised us all. As this young French girl began singing I found myself slipping into that wonderful place where this story could surround and enlighten me.
The rest of the cast, including Dan Stevens as the Beast, do an excellent job. Luke Evans as Gaston is as slimy as any villain I have ever seen. His sycophantic servant, LaFou (Josh Gad) has caused a stir in some parts of the country for the way he is portrayed. Ignore them. This is a great character who works well as the foil to Gaston's particular variety of pathetic evil.
This story is so well known that most of us can identify with Belle or one of the other characters in one way or another. (For me, it is Chip.) The new film is not a retelling or a revision of that story. It is an update using technologies Walt would have killed for (or at least given up a leg).
The opening scenes in the village are staged to take advantage of 3D. I admit I saw the film in 2D but I can see how it would look in my head. Belle comes down the steps from her home and walks through the village singing. As I watched the scene I realized I could also see this same scene staged as a live play.
The differences between the animated version and it's new counterpart are small but add to the overall story very well. They are expansions of scenes that meld very well with the story we love. The overall feel of the film is every bit as good as it's original. I loved the casting choices. I loved the CGI that replaced the animation. I loved the way the story flows while at the same time allowing the personalities of the characters and the actors to jump out at us. Bottom line, I LOVED this film!
Take your children, the nieces and nephews, and even the neighborhood kids with you to see this one! In Beauty and the Beast we have a new classic in the making. I think that this film will be as much a part of our Disney collections as the 1991 film. I plan to see the 3D version to see what I might have missed but regardless, I WILL be buying a copy of this one for my permanent library, to be watched again and again for years to come!