From the time I was a little girl, I remember watching Disney Princess movies like it was my job. I could sing every song from “Cinderella” and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” and “Sleeping Beauty.” But by far my favorite was “Beauty and the Beast.” I would dream I was Belle and had a big, beautiful yellow dress and a talking teacup of my own. It never failed to bring magic into my life.
So when it was announced that my all-time favorite princess movie was being turned into a live-action motion picture, I was off-the-walls ecstatic. My expectations were pretty lofty going into the theater after agonizing months of waiting, but I was happy to say that my expectations were not too ambitious.
The story unfolds in a small village in France, with the beautiful, curious Belle (Emma Watson) singing and dancing her way across town. Her voice is painstakingly auto-tuned and I don’t think she is a very good actress, but once you get past those two facts, the film is actually pretty enjoyable.
After dodging the advances and marriage proposals of the rugged, narcissistic Gaston (Luke Evans), Belle dreams of leaving her “provincial life.” Her father, Maurice (Kevin Kline), is known as the town crazy-man and leaves for an exhibition. On his journey, he gets attacked by wolves and is forced to take shelter at a seemingly abandoned castle in the woods.
Maurice soon finds out that the castle is inhabited by a prince (Dan Stevens) cursed to live his life as a Beast and his faithful servants as animated household objects.Belle rides to save her father’s life, and ends up taking his place as the Beast’s prisoner for life.
The CGI used to recreate the Beast and the animated objects is magnificent. Cogsworth (Ian McKellan) and Lumiere (Ewan McGregor) steal the show with their endless banter back and forth, along with their singing and dancing chops on display in the classic “Be Our Guest” number. Little Chip (Nathan Mack) and Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson) tug at heartstrings as the darling mother and son trapped in fine china form. Every character looked believable and had their own quirkiness that made the film more enjoyable.
The human character that stole the show, however, was Gaston’s side kick, Lefou (Josh Gad). His attempts to mimic the prowess exhibited by his master was incredibly comical and rivaled his Olaf character from “Frozen.”
Director Bill Condon (“Dream Girls,” “Breaking Dawn: Part 2”) added a few new scores and sequences into the film to tie up some loose ends about Belle’s mother, and added more humanistic characteristics to the Beast. For as much as I disliked Watson’s voice, I was entranced by Stevens’ low, powerful timbre.
All in all, each character was cast about as well as it possibly could have been, and fulfilled every expectation I had going into the theater.
The tale as old as time was as magical as the first time I saw it.