My sister Gingersnap went to see Beauty and the Beast recently, and typed up her thoughts about it, and kindly let me post her review. There are some spoilers sprinkled throughout, just to warn you. Also, when Gingersnap refers to the cartoon Beauty and the Beast, she means the special edition. Enjoy!
First, let me say that the 1991 “Beauty and the Beast” Disney cartoon is one of my favourite movies, and I’m very passionate about it (probably too much). Therefore, a lot of the opinions I formed of the live action remake is based on my biased love of the cartoon. If you don’t love the cartoon as much as I do, half of this probably won’t make sense, but I’m sharing it anyway. 😉
Let’s start with things I liked about it!
The Actors’ Performances (most of them). This is an AMAZING cast (with one exception I’ll discuss later)!! My favourites are probably:
Luke Evan’s Gaston. AGH, Luke’s acting and singing were both terrific!! I never would have thought Bard could be such a bad guy! 😉
Ewan McGregor’s Lumiere. He did such a fun, wonderful job of being carefree, charismatic Lumiere (even though his French accent wasn’t the greatest)! My dad didn’t think he was that great, but I loved him. Dad says he liked it better when Cogsworth had the lighter voice and Lumiere had the deeper voice, as in the cartoon. The remake switched it around. I kinda see what he means, but I thought Ewan and Ian McKellen both did a great job.
Josh Gad’s Lefou. He captured the cartoon character’s personality/mannerisms spot-on! (More on Lefou later.)
Dan Stevens was also incredible (I REALLY love what I’ve seen of Dan in interviews), but I’ll talk more on this later. And his singing was wonderful, too!
The Musical Numbers. I love the Beauty and the Beast songs so much, and the orchestra; and most of the singing/dancing was wonderful! I wasn’t as crazy about the new songs, although “Evermore” was beautiful. But I’m very unhappy they left out “Human Again”. They could have made that AMAZING. And man, “Gaston” was so much fun (except it would have been FAR more enjoyable without Lefou; again, more on that later). My top favourite musical scene is probably “Be Our Guest”, which was INCREDIBLE!! Which brings me to my next point …
The CGI. Without a doubt, this film is BREATHTAKINGLY BEAUTIFUL. I love the detail and beauty of the Beast’s castle, not to mention the talking objects!! Sometimes you can tell when a movie is using too much CGI (like The Hobbit *cough*), but the CGI looked really real! I heard some people say “Be Our Guest” wasn’t too impressive, but I was amazed!! But I’m also not a CGI expert. 😉
Dan Steven’s Adam. OH MY GOODNESS I LOVE HIM SO MUCH AND HE’S ADORABLE!!! His smile just makes me dance on fairy clouds with happiness. He’s so CUTE!!! (And I mean that in a sweet way, not a creepy way). I wish we could have seen more of him!
And now for the negatives.
Emma Watson’s Belle. I mean no disrespect to people who like her performance, and I really don’t mind if the rest of the world thinks she’s great, but I can’t stand her. (As in, I dislike her AS BELLE. I’m sure her acting was great, but I don’t think she’s a good Belle, and I think the movie ruined Belle’s character in general; more on that later.)
For one, her singing voice wasn’t that great, and she didn’t even TRY to hold notes. It’s hard for me to overlook that, especially compared to Paige O’Hara, who had such a deep, rich voice and sang with such strength and passion.
But my biggest problem is how the movie portrayed Belle in general. (This may or may not be Emma’s fault; I’m not sure.) To me, the attitude behind Cartoon Belle and Emma Belle is what’s different. Cartoon Belle was an imaginative reader who longed for adventure, which made her “odd” to everyone else, but she was comfortable with it and polite about it. But what I saw in Emma Belle was a show-off, full-of-herself attitude, and she seemed to treat others condescendingly. There’s a difference between being comfortable with your differences and showing off your differences. It’s almost like Emma Belle was trying to prove something. (I’m very sure I’m the only one who thinks this way; I won’t argue if people disagree). Not to mention the fact that Emma Belle is SO “independent” and non-conformative to the point she doesn’t wear a corset and she pins her skirt up, revealing her legging things underneath (I’m assuming it’s underwear?). I mean, I get that French clothing in those times wasn’t very practical, but seriously??
One difference I especially disliked was Emma Belle’s encounter with Gaston, especially compared to Cartoon Belle.
Cartoon Belle – Is kind and polite to Gaston, even though he’s flirting with her, abusing her favourite book, and being obnoxious in general. However, she’s not afraid to tell him to his face that he’s “positively primeval”, but her tone of voice is light-hearted, not disgusted or condescending.
Emma Belle – has an eye-rolling demeanor towards Gaston and doesn’t really try to be nice. “May I come over for dinner?” Gaston asks. “No, sorry,” Belle replies. “Busy?” Gaston says. “No …” Belle walks away. I guess she could have been ruder, but compared to cartoon Belle, I thought it was rather snobbish. At least Cartoon Belle said she had to help her father, which was true. Emma Belle basically says, “I don’t like you, go away.”
And I HATE HATE HATE that they have Belle trying to escape immediately after giving herself over to Beast. It ruins the beauty of what Belle did for her father. In the cartoon, Belle made a SACRIFICE for her father. She GAVE HER WORD to remain as Beast’s prisoner to save Maurice, even though it meant she lost her freedom forever. She says, “YOU HAVE MY WORD.” And she does keep it, at least for a while; it’s not until Beast yells at her in the West Wing that she runs away. But in the remake, she tells Maurice, “I promise I’ll escape”, and she does as soon as she can by tying the dresses together and climbing out the window. That’s not a sacrifice. Emma Belle loses nothing by taking her father’s place if she means to escape. That takes away the impact of Beast’s own future sacrifice when he releases Belle so she can be with her father, meaning Beast loses his chance of being a human again. Beast’s sacrifice mirrors the sacrifice he saw Belle make when he first met her.
Another difference (not necessarily a bad one) between Cartoon Belle and Emma Belle is their answers to Beast’s question, “Are you happy here with me?” Cartoon Belle says, “Yes … if only I could see my father again, just for a moment. I miss him so much.” Emma Belle also acknowledges she misses her father, but her first response to Beast’s question is, “Can anyone be happy when they’re not free?” I completely understand her wanting freedom; there’s nothing wrong with that. But I like it better that Maurice is the only thing missing from Belle’s happiness.
You get the idea, I’m moving on.
Beast’s character. Again, an attitude thing. In the cartoon, when Beast starts falling in love with Belle, he truly wants to be nice and do something good for her, but he’s not used to it and he’s not sure how. Anyhow, he’s eager, just clueless. In the remake, it seemed to me like Beast would try to be nice, but act like he wasn’t trying to be nice. Ya know what I mean? Like he didn’t want to admit he was being nice. And then Belle has to pry it out of him like, “are you being nice?” and he’s like, “er … no.” I prefer it when Beast was openly being kind. Like giving her the library! In the cartoon, Beast decides he wants to do something for Belle, and settles on giving her the library. Intentionally! Because she loves books! In the live action movie, he and Belle are in the library and she’s like, “I love this!” And he’s like, “Really? Cool. Well, I guess you can have it.” It wasn’t as sweet and special to me as the cartoon version was.
Another thing I don’t like is how the movie almost blames Beast’s dad for Beast’s bad attitude. Um, no. In the cartoon, Beast’s rotten attitude was clearly his own fault, and that’s what he had to change. But nooo, the remake had to give him this tragic backstory, having his father treat him badly and twist him into growing up the way he did. Like you’re supposed to go, “Aww, poor Beast, it’s not his fault, the enchantress was so mean to him!!” It IS his fault, thankyeverymuch. Don’t pin this on the dad.
Rushed moments. Maybe not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things, but some of my favourite moments between Belle and Beast felt rushed, one in particular: when Beast decides to release Belle. In the cartoon, Belle looks into the magic mirror, sees her sick father, and says, “He may be dying, and he’s all alone!” The music swells, and Beast turns to the rose vase and strokes it, and you can see it in his eyes that he’s making that life-changing decision. After a pause, he says genuinely but not without regret, “Then … then you must go to him.” Later he says, “I release you. You’re no longer my prisoner.” It’s so powerful and emotional. And then Belle strokes his cheek in thanks before she leaves, and we’re all bawling at that point.
How does the remake do it? Belle says, “He may be dying, and he’s all alone!” Beast IMMEDIATELY says, “Then you must go to him.” Um. What? I blinked, and I missed it. And Belle’s just like, “Really? Awesome, toodles!” For something so character-defining and life-changing for Beast, they didn’t even bother to draw it out. Maybe to make room for the new song “Evermore?” Maybe they thought “Evermore” showed it better than the pause before Beast’s decision. I dunno. Anyway, I didn’t like it.
Another difference I don’t like is when Lumiere, Cogsworth, and Mrs. Potts warn Beast of Gaston’s arrival after Belle leaves. In the cartoon, Cogsworth asks why Beast let Belle go, and he answers, “Because … I love her.” He admitted it himself. But the remake has Mrs Potts say it for him: “Because he loves her.” … Ma’am? Beast can speak for himself. Don’t take his spotlight. Seriously, why have Mrs. Potts sum it up?? The whole point of the curse was to teach Beast to love. He should be the one to acknowledge when that finally happens.
One more. This isn’t so much of a rushed moment as a moment that wasn’t in the movie to begin with. I love in the cartoon when Belle reads “Romeo and Juliet” to Beast, and he loves it. He asks to hear it again, and she helps him practice reading. In the remake, Beast already remembers how to read and is well-versed in literature. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but I love seeing Belle encourage that love of reading in him. Also, in the remake, Beast is embarrassed when Belle catches him reading the story of Lancelot and Guinevere (a romance), and she teases him about it. What happened to the Beast who loved hearing “Romeo and Juliet” (another romance)?
That Weird Backstory With Belle’s Mom. What was that for?! I couldn’t figure out what it contributed to the story. Supposedly it explains why Maurice left Belle’s mom, but when was that even a thing? Belle’s mom is never mentioned in the cartoon. And in said cartoon, Maurice and Belle have a wonderful, sweet relationship. I felt like that was some tension between them in the remake, maybe because Belle didn’t know the aforementioned Weird Backstory With Belle’s Mom.
Lefou’s Love for Gaston. I really, really thought Lefou’s gay parts were going to be subtle, so subtle that I could wave them off as being character-accurate obsession with Gaston (non-romantic). But they weren’t subtle. You can’t miss it in Lefou’s glances and the way he drapes himself on Gaston’s chair. Sometimes I closed my eyes and turned my head just cause I couldn’t bear to watch it. Granted, it could have been worse, and there wasn’t even kissing or anything physical. But you still know exactly what Hollywood was going for. It was especially frustrating during the “Gaston” number because it was SO WELL DONE and SO FUN TO WATCH, and they had to soil it with Lefou. It’s such a bummer because if Lefou hadn’t been gay, he would have been such an enjoyable, hilarious sidekick, and I could have actually rooted for him when he became a good guy.
Thankfully Lefou’s parts were not many, so I’m hoping maybe we can skip/edit his bad parts out with the DVD. He didn’t spoil the whole movie for me, but I was hoping there would be enough wonderfulness in the film to make it worth it to me. But whether because of Belle’s and Beast’s changes that I’ve mentioned, or maybe just Emma Watson’s existence in general, their love story didn’t touch me the way it did in the cartoon.
I know I listed more negatives than positives, but I truly did enjoy watching it, and it’s incredibly well-made in some areas. I’m just disappointed with how they handled Belle and Beast. But I would love to watch it again, if only to enjoy the music and animation and to feed my own imagination so I can mentally come up with a much better version.