PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):
In Rococo-era France, an enchantress disguised as an old beggar woman offers an enchanted rose to a prince in exchange for shelter from a storm, but he refuses. For his arrogance, she places a spell that transforms him into a monstrous beast, turns the servants into anthropomorphic household objects, and erases the castle from the villagers’ memories of loved ones. She gives the Beast a magic mirror that shows faraway events and leaves him the enchanted rose. To break the spell, the prince must learn to love another and earn her love in return before the rose’s last petal falls, otherwise he will remain a beast forever and his servants will lose their remaining humanity.
Years later in the village of Villeneuve, a young woman, Belle, lives with her father Maurice, an artist and tinkerer. Gaston, a celebrated former soldier, seeks her hand in marriage, but she is repulsed by his arrogance and narcissism. On a trip to the market to sell music boxes, Maurice and his horse Philippe lose their way in the forest and are attacked by wolves. They seek refuge at the castle, but Maurice is imprisoned by the Beast as penance for taking a rose from the garden. When she realizes her father is missing upon Philippe’s sudden arrival, Belle ventures into the forest in search for him, and finds him locked in one of the castle’s towers. The Beast confronts her and accepts her offer to take her father’s place, despite Maurice’s objections.
Belle befriends the servants in the castle: Lumière, Cogsworth, Plumette, Madame de Garderobe, Mrs. Potts, and Chip. After the servants treated her with dinner, she eventually wanders into the forbidden west wing and finds the rose. The Beast, enraged, frightens Belle into fleeing into the woods. However, he later rescues her from a pack of wolves but gets injured in the process. Belle escorts him back to the castle and nurses him back to health. A friendship develops, and the servants tell her she may be the one who can break the curse. The Beast develops feelings for Belle and allows her access to his library. However, Belle remains uncertain of her feelings due to her imprisonment. The Beast shows Belle a gift the enchantress gave him, a book that could take people wherever they wanted. Belle uses it to bring the Beast and herself to the attic of an old windmill in Paris, where she used to live with her parents as an infant. Upon finding a plague doctor mask, Belle discovers that she and her father were forced to leave her mother’s deathbed as the latter succumbed to the plague.
Meanwhile, Maurice returns to Villeneuve but is unable to convince the others to rescue Belle. Gaston agrees to help Maurice, but when he reveals that he only agreed to help Maurice in order to win his favor to give Belle to Gaston in marriage, Maurice refuses. In response, Gaston ties up Maurice in the forest to be killed by wolves. Maurice is rescued by a hermit, Agathe and confronts Gaston, accusing him of committing an attempted murder, but Gaston convinces the townsfolk to send Maurice to the local insane asylum.
After sharing a romantic dance with the Beast, Belle discovers her father’s predicament using the magic mirror. The Beast releases her to save Maurice, giving her the mirror to remember him with. At Villeneuve, Belle proves Maurice’s sanity by revealing the Beast in the mirror to the townsfolk. Realizing that Belle loves the Beast, Gaston furiously has her thrown into the asylum carriage with her father and rallies the villagers to follow him to the castle to slay the Beast. Maurice and Belle escape from confinement and Belle rushes back to the castle while Maurice deals with Monsieur D’Arque, the asylum keeper.
During the ensuing fight, Gaston abandons his companion LeFou, who sides with the servants to fend off the villagers. Gaston attacks the Beast in his tower, who is initially too depressed to fight back, but regains his will upon seeing Belle return. He corners Gaston but spares his life before reuniting with Belle. However, Gaston fatally shoots the Beast in the back before the stone bridge he is standing on collapses beneath him, and Gaston falls to his death. The Beast dies as the last rose petal falls and the castle’s servants become completely inanimate. Belle professes her love to him, then Agathe reveals herself to be the enchantress and undoes the curse, restoring the Beast’s life and human form. The servants’ humanity and the villagers’ memories are also restored, with several villagers recognizing some of the servants as their relatives. The Prince and Belle host a ball for the kingdom, where they dance happily.
One of the most beloved Disney movies of all time, or least since the Disney Renaissance is Beauty & the Beast. When a live action film was announced to be in production, you can imagine the outcry of rage and, conversely, support. For me, I try to wait until I see the finished product before I judge. Well, I just finished seeing it. Time to judge!
What is this about?
Disney’s animated classic takes on a new form, with a widened mythology and an all-star cast. A young prince, imprisoned in the form of a beast, can be freed only by true love. What may be his only opportunity arrives when he meets Belle, the only human girl to ever visit the castle since it was enchanted.
What did I like?
Bring me to life. Many have tried to bring animation to life (see the recently released Ghost in the Shell). While we are curious as to what these world would look like, it just doesn’t seem to work. That is, unless you are Disney! They literally took the beloved animated classic, made very few changes, toned it down a bit for today’s cynical audience and voila! Everything is here from the opening sequence with Belle singing, the wolves attacking Beast in the woods, the iconic ballroom scene, and even the fight with the villagers at the end. Much care was given to this project to make sure everything was exactly right and it shows!
Crazy old Maurice. In the original, we don’t get to know much about Maurice, other than he’s Belle’s father and some kind of crackpot inventor. Also, if that last scene is to believed, he may have started a little something with Mrs. Potts, but that’s open to interpretation. I really appreciate how this film gave us a little bit more insight not only into Maurice, but introduced new characters, or characters whom we didn’t know their names, such as Plumette, the feather duster Lumiere is in love with, Madame de Garderobe, the wardrobe, etc. If only we would have gotten a bit more about life before they got turned into appliances and such.
Visuals. This is a beautiful film. I don’t think I’ve seen a more beautiful sight than when the camera pans back in the opening and we get a good look at the castle. That’s just the start of it, though. Without spoiling anything, your eyes are in for a treat the deeper you get into this film.
What didn’t I like?
Be original. While I appreciated the film for bringing a beloved classic to life, I can’t help but feel like they could have done something more with this material. No, I’m not talking about furthering Emma Watson’s feminist agenda, but give us something new with this story. For instance, Maleficent was told from a different point of view. Imagine if this was told from, let’s say Lefou’s point of view?
Where was the fear? I was not impressed with the look of the Beast. Sure, they tried to make him look more animal, but he had too much of a human look to him for my taste. Much like with superheroes, I feel they were trying to keep the actor’s face in the public, rather than giving us a true frightful looking beast. Also, they may have had something more blood curdling in mind, but this is a kid’s movie when all is said and done, so I can understand that. Still, the animated version was a kids film and there were times when Beast gave us jump scares. Not so much with the live action version, though.
Realistically creepy. I’ve had issues with the servants since I first saw what they did with Mrs. Potts. First off, let me say that I have no problem with the casting. My issue is with the look. These days it seems as if we want everything to look as realistic as possible. Well, the nightmare inducing versions of Cogsworth, Lumiere, Mrs. Potts, etc. are on all of you that want things to be as real as possible. I mean, seriously, this is a fairy tale about and prince who gets turned into a beast and his servants that become the household objects in the castle. What is real about that?!? *SIGH*
Final verdict on Beauty & the Beast? Very solid for a live action remake of a beloved animated classic. The music is taken straight from the original, with a few changes here and there. The acting is solid, plenty of laughs to go around, and the new characters fit right in with the ones we already know and love. The problems I have with this film are very small, but they do add up. So, do I recommend this? Yes, especially if you’re looking for a good date or family film to check out or just want a bit of nostalgia. Check it out!
4 1/2 out of 5 stars