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••• The International Writers Magazine: Movie Review

starring Emma Watson, Dan Stevens and Luke Evans
Director Bill Condon
• Helen Reynolds review

Beauty and the Beast

A tale as old as 1991, in movie terms, when Walt Disney created its first feature film to be nominated for Best Picture (as opposed to Best Animated) at the Oscars. This was thanks to the revolutionary CGI in the iconic ballroom dance that used 3-D moving backgrounds and had us twirling alongside the animated couple. It was also the first to win a Best Picture Golden Globe and led the way for musicals to be taken seriously come awards season. A true Disney masterpiece.

So why, then, have a sequel?

Disney seeks to entice and dazzle each new generation with a modern look and feel in their classics. Just compare the first Disney princess Snow White (cleaning up after seven grown men) in the 1930's, to Mulan in the 1990's, literally fighting in a war alongside men. There are many examples of how Disney evolves to match with the times, and this new Beauty and the Beast seeks to do the same.

While Belle was already an independent, strong female character (my personal favourite as she was both a beauty and a bookworm), she feels modern in this new adaptation. Emma Watson is resourceful, fearless, emotional and ultimately very likeable for a new generation of girls to look up to.

Other characters also get a lift. Maurice (Kevin Kline) comes with a tragic tale of a plague-ridden Paris and a father’s terrible choice. He isn’t the bumbling fool with his head in the clouds making convoluted inventions, but a quiet, thoughtful artisan. The windmill theme is a beautiful addition and Belle has a more in-depth relationship with her father.

Gaston (Luke Evans) is undoubtedly a highlight. Grotesque and comical in the animation, Evans gives Gaston a cocksure performance. He’s a soldier who revels in the hunt and you can easily see how a red coat and good-looks equals “hero” to the townsfolk.

The movie doesn’t veer very far from its counterpart with only a few gamechangers – Lafou is Disney’s first openly gay character, and the enchantress leaves a magical book that feels very fitting to the tale. New songs play out well, and which could easily have been written for the stage, suiting the Frozen sing-along generation.

The old fans with certainly miss the Cogsworth (Ian McKellen, who auditioned back in the 90s for this same role) and Lumiere (Ewan McGregor) dynamic which is far underplayed. There’s also a strangeness to the CGI of these characters in general, including Beast (Dan Stevens) who struggles as a lead because of this flat quality.

However, the CGI of the sets are stunning. The detail to the derelict gothic castle, the quaint look of the town and the depressing dark turn of windmills in the Paris scene are all works of art. The same exactingness goes into the costumes which are a standout. Emma Watson of course gets the lion’s share and these will no doubt take the form of very sellable dolls as well as jewellery.

This isn’t a movie to appease the fans of the old classic, but one to invite a younger audience into being their guest and this, I think, it does very well.

A combination of:

Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Pans Labyrinth (2006)
Frozen (2013)

© Helen J. Reynolds, March 2017

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