It’s Disney! It’s a fairy tale! It is warm childhood memories!
Already the highest-grossing domestic release of the year, Beauty and the Beast will be 2017’s highest-grossing movie worldwide. The Walt Disney blockbuster earned $3.2 million on its third Thursday, bringing its domestic total up to $407.3 million in just 21 days.
The new film not only did a phenomenal job adapting the animated movie, but added in several new musical numbers, all of which were quite good, and made many other small changes that actually deepened and improved on the original’s story.
Not only they deepened the character LeFou, but the story as a whole. Gaston is made more despicable, and LeFou more sympathetic. Gaston, played by Luke Evans is a much darker villain than in the original film. He’s still a brutish snob and he still gets plenty of laughs, but his wickedness has a sharper edge. This is partly due to the changes made to his character and partly to Evans’s incredible performance. The Hobbit actor’s Gaston is dark, at once bumbling and debonair, and ruthless. And he can sing!
The rest of the cast is more fleshed out as well, with deeper character motivations and more believable stories than the original animated film. Rather than a hapless inventor, Belle’s father Maurice (Kevin Kline) is a gentle artist who bravely confronts Gaston and is only condemned to an insane asylum after LeFou lies on Gaston’s behalf.
The residents of the Beast’s palace are also slightly more human. Chip is an only child, and Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson) has a husband still very much human in the village.
Finally, the Beast and Belle are given a far, far more convincing romance. In the film, Belle (Emma Watson) and the Beast (Dan Stevens) both lost their mothers at a young age. They share a common bond of loss. But whereas Belle had a loving, compassionate father the Beast’s was a selfish and wicked man.
There’s been some criticism of Emma Watson in her role as Belle, but I found her performance charming. I love that Belle is an inventor in her own right, and that all her best qualities from the film are emphasized here. She’s brave, outspoken, intelligent and kind, and Emma Watson is a natural.
Meanwhile, Stevens is a great Beast, though his beastly voice felt less gruff and beastly than…old? When the prince finally does appear in his human form, we’re treated to the best line of the film. He’s clean-shaven, looking like he stepped off the set of Downton Abbey, and Belle asks with a smile: “How do you feel about growing a beard?” Have I mentioned that the movie is also very funny?
All told, Beauty and the Beast has been my favorite live-action adaptation of a classic Disney film so far. Certainly, this is partly due to my love of the original film and how faithfully it was adapted. The film breathes new life into a movie that remains one of the best animated pictures of all time. That’s quite an achievement.