Let’s get one thing straight; I was always Belle. When all the little girls would argue about which princess they were, my decision was unfaltering: Belle. * So needless to say, I went into this movie with very specific expectations, all of which were met and exceeded.
I think we often forget why we loved Disney movies so much growing up; the answer is the magic. Bill Condon’s version brings that magic to life in an impactful way that we can actually enjoy as adults now. I don’t know about you, but I find that pretty special, particularly for a story like Beauty and the Beast where we’ve got inanimate objects that sing and dance and a “beast” character that needs to have some charm. If we are being honest, these are not things that easily appeal to adults, but Disney hit the nail on the head this year.
Now let’s talk about the cast; Emma Watson is a perfect Belle. She is beautiful, brainy, and strong-willed in all the aspects that, I at least, imagined Belle to be. I have to say, I love that her real-life persona already embodies this character; Watson is well educated and an avid activist. It is no coincidence that the typecast of the brainy belle has suited her so well, even as a six-year old Hermione Granger. Then we have Kevin Kline, a very welcome surprise, as Maurice – a character that I would argue has historically been underplayed and it was Kevin Kline alone who made me realize that. As for LeFou, not only did I find the controversy surrounding Disney’s “first openly gay character” completely ridiculous, I consider this aspect to have genuinely added to the story. The man crush he has on Gaston makes far more sense than being his weird sidekick for no apparent reason and IT’S FUNNY. LeFou brings comic relief and goofiness to many parts of the movie, but specifically to the song Gaston in the bar. It is one of the many adaptations that make the movie far more relatable and far less clichéd.
If I had to make one critique, which apparently I do, it would be the music. Of all the features that were improved and expanded in this version, the music was the least impressive. Aside from Gaston, which was hilarious and brilliant, the songs from the original were stale, although performed well. Meanwhile, the new songs were decent and fit the script but were certainly nothing to rave about.
I expect this version will be criticized for being so close to the 1991 Disney version, but as someone who truly enjoyed the Disney version, I was happy to see it preserved so well.
* I lost friends over this.