Reviewing the live-action Beauty and the Beast

A detailed account of every time you’ll cry like a baby.

The enduring appeal of animated Disney movies is not to be taken lightly. For some of us, they changed our life perspectives irreversibly. They showed us that nature is something to defend (Pocahontas), that being different is being special (Dumbo), and that sometimes the grass isn’t always greener on the other side (The Little Mermaid). 

So much so, that many of us feel the overwhelming urge to protect them from ruinous imitations that pale in comparison. (That said, I would never deny someone the opportunity to murder ‘A Whole New World’ at karaoke.)

A recent regeneration of Disney’s animated favourites into live-action films has been a varied exploration for the iconic film studio. The Jungle Book was interesting and accomplished, but rarely captured the energy and humour of the original animation. Alice in Wonderland suffered from Johnny Depp’s fantastically large opinion of his own acting ability, and Maleficent just didn’t hit the mark.

Now, we see 1991’s Beauty and the Beast resurrected in live-action form – a film that was one of my personal all-time favourites, due to the fact that it featured a book-reading girl who the town thought was weird. (Imagine! A girl! READING!)

Emma Watson cast as Belle seemed odd to me at first. After all, Belle was a far cry from the know-it-all Hermione. She was, instead, a dreamer trapped in her ‘small provincial town’, desperately seeking inspiration, stimulation… well, anything really, other than the petty judgements of small-minded people. 

(Which sounds strikingly familiar to every Facebook comments section I’ve ever read, tbh.)

I tentatively plodded along to an early morning screening last week and was completely underprepared for the emotional onslaught that was to come. Thanks, in part, to Ewan McGregor CGI-ed into the form of a dancing French candlestick. Nope, I’m 100% not being sarcastic. 

It’s completely ridiculous to say, but I cried like a baby throughout the whole thing. Maybe I was longing for lost childhood optimism, or mourning the kid who once dreamed about ‘perfect endings’. Or perhaps I was disappointed by the meteoric rise of bitter, bitter cynicism inside of me. (Have you read any of my columns, srsly.) 

Perhaps 1991 was a different time, because looking back on Beauty and the Beast I realised it wasn’t cynical at all. It was an all-out, unashamed love story. And I’d completely forgotten how it made me feel. 

Case in point: the opening number. It was spot on for anyone who’s seeking comparisons to the original and although it feels odd in 2017 to talk about women as ‘strange’ for reading books, the remake establishes itself right from the get-go as a camp, stage-like, unashamed re-creation. It’s the perfect antidote to my significant concern about the impending CGI clocks and teacups with French accents dancing around Emma Watson.

As everyone dances around Belle’s dad Maurice (played by Kevin Kline), he is supportive and sweet, and tinkers away at a little toy that was built out of melancholy sadness for his lost wife. I immediately cry.

Luke Evans enters as the dashing, debonair Gaston – and plays it perfectly – while Josh Gad sparkles happily behind him as the (surprisingly controversial) now-confirmed gay character, LeFou. They add humour and flair to a story anchored by a completely sincere Watson. 

Beauty and the Beast 2.0 is a pretty faithful retelling, really. So you shouldn’t be surprised by any of the plot points. Belle replaces her father as the Beast’s prisoner, after stealing a rose to bring home to his daughter in memory of his dead wife. (Cried.) Belle tries to run away but the Beast saves her from a hungry pack of wolves, so she returns the favour by not leaving him to perish in the cold, hurt. (Cried again.)

Belle nurses him back to health and in return, the Beast gifts her his entire library because he knows how much she loves books. (DEFINITELY CRIED.)

Sure, there are moments when it’s hard to resolve the real-life actors with the overly-animated sections (like the explosive rendition of ‘Be Our Guest’) but for the most part, it surprisingly works. This is, after all, a fantasy story filled with magic and a sorceress and a pretty young girl who falls in love with a literal Beast.

If you’re unsure, see it. It’s a moment of unadulterated joy in an overly serious era of Alternative Facts and a Trump presidency and expensive housing that we can never afford… let’s be honest, we need it.

And if you’re a fan? Bring tissues. You’re going to need them too.

Follow Bianca at @_thesecondrow for the latest things that make her cry. Like Facebook pages that post pictures of homeless puppies.

Illustration by Twylamae.

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