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Beauty and the Beast; or Perfection and the Beast

As a self-respecting young woman with a beloved childhood memory of watching Disney VHS’s on repeat, today I saw the new live-action Beauty and the Beast film. I may be a few weeks late to the party, but what can I say? It was never my absolute favorite. When they make Pocahontas I’ll be there at midnight. Or Anastasia (yes, I know it’s not Disney, but whatever. It was still one of my most watched tapes).

I’ve been looking forward to seeing the remake of 1991’s Beauty and the Beast ever since I heard that Emma Watson would play Belle. She’s strong and intelligent and even kind of looks like the animated Belle, so what could go wrong? Her portrayal of Belle was in fact spot on, but I’m pretty sure that as a character, Belle is perfect… I don’t know why that bothered me, but from beginning to end she did everything selflessly and perfectly. Maybe that’s how the animated film was, too (it’s been a while since I’ve seen it), but I wished Belle could have been slightly less perfect and a tiny bit more realistic. She looked perfect, acted perfect, reacted perfectly, and even was an inventor alongside her father. I think that’s what got me. Why can’t Belle make a mistake or two, or just not be awesome at everything? Regardless of my own petty irritation, Emma Watson truly was the perfect Belle.

Luke Evans as Gaston and Josh Gad as LeFou were my favorite components of the movie. Their back-and-forth was charming and LeFou’s side comments were the perfect comedic relief, much like many characters Gad has portrayed (Bearclaw from New Girl, anyone? Or Olaf, for the more Disney-inclined readers?). Emma Thompson’s performance as Mrs. Potts, Ewan McGregor as Lumiere, and Ian McKellen as Cogsworth were sweet and convincing. The entire cast did an amazing job bringing the animated film to life, but they weren’t alone in that.

Bill Condon directed new interpretation and the few additions to the story were a smashing success (in this writer’s opinion). Belle was able to travel through a magic book to Paris to see her parents’ old home where she was finally able to piece together the story behind her mother’s death. It was touching and added depth to her relationship with the Beast; he was able to see her priorities, and also observe her at her most vulnerable, emotional state. Additionally, there were a few new songs written by Alan Menken (the man who wrote the original songs 30 years ago, as well as songs from The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Tangled, and several more). The Beast, played by Dan Stevens, sang one such song called “Evermore,” in which he declared his love for Belle as he climbed the castle’s turrets, watching his dreams of freedom die as she rushed back to her father. Her yellow dress against the dark castle grounds is a startling contrast as we see him struggle to keep her in his sights until finally, she is gone. Well done, Condon and Menken. Wonderful addition.

I could continue as there is much to discuss about the new Beauty and the Beast, but for now I’ll leave you with this: did my sister and I choose to go to the movies tonight because our parents gave us free movie tickets? Okay, maybe. Would we have seen anything else? No way. Would I, as a broke college student, pay to see it a second time in theaters? Definitely. Well worth it.

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