You would think, especially considering that my middle name is LITERALLY Belle and that I was LITERALLY named after the Disney princess, that I would be a big fan of Disney’s original Beauty and the Beast.
But alas, I am not, and never really have been. Belle’s awesome, don’t get me wrong, but I could never quite believe the storyline. Even at age 7, it never made any sense—why would a girl as smart as Belle fall in love with a beast? A hairy buffalo, at that.
However, because I’m a big Emma Watson fan, I found myself heading to the movie theater on opening night of the new Beauty and the Beast. I had heard all the rumors about it—the outrage over LeFou being gay, the general disgust at Belle’s yellow dress, the creepy CGI effects—so needless to say, I wasn’t really looking forward to it.
To my surprise, I found myself pleasantly delighted with this adaptation. Emma Watson is wonderful, and while her singing was in a much lower key than Paige O’Hara’s, it was by no means a terrible change. In fact, I admire Watson for stepping away from the soprano range of the typical Disney princess, and making this version of Belle her own. I also enjoyed her modern twist of making Belle the inventor. While initially I didn’t see how this would impact the plot, it only serves to add to Belle’s “weirdness,” and gives another reason why the townsfolk think she’s “rather odd.”
The cast was an absolute delight, too. Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi in the prequels for us Star Wars geeks) and Sir Ian McKellen (Magneto from the X-Men movies) are perfect as Lumiére and Cogsworth, respectively, and Emma Thompson could not be MORE fitting as Mrs. Potts. (I spent the entire movie before she was transformed wondering who played Mrs. Potts, and I shrieked with delight because who ISN’T EXCITED about a HARRY POTTER reunion? Answer: NO ONE. ) Gugu Mbatha-Raw is stunning and wondrously, hilariously French as Plumette, and Stanley Tucci is, well, Stanley Tucci. To me, he’s still that actor that just shows up in random movies and makes it better. Luke Evans as Gaston is a great choice as well, but there was no better casting choice than that of Josh Gad as LeFou. Gad, also the voice of Frozen’s Olaf, is just as awkward and hilarious and longing for Gaston as he was in the original. And Audra McDonald-- light of my life-- is PERFECT AS ALWAYS. I could listen to her voice over and over and never get tired of it.
But the big breakout star of this entire film HAS to be Dan Stevens. I’m a big fan of Julian Fellowes’s Downton Abbey, and while I’m still bitter about how Stevens left the show, I was surprised to learn that he had been cast as the Beast. When first heard that they were making a live-action version of Beauty and the Beast, I was skeptical. I didn’t think that there were enough stars who could do the songs justice. But the more I thought about it, the more I was comforted. I didn’t know how well Stevens sang, and the Beast didn’t have any songs in the original, so as far as I knew, my fears were going to be assuaged.
So I’m sitting there, waiting and watching as Belle rides Phillipe away from the castle in her big, yellow, poofy dress to go save her father when suddenly, a voice bursts through the speakers.
It’s Dan Stevens. And he’s singing. And it’s really FREAKIN’ GOOD.
(Since the movie’s release, the official YouTube video of Stevens singing has over 1,500,000 hits. Approximately 500,000 of them are by me.)
Regardless of whether or not you have qualms about ruining the goodness of the original Disney movie, or whether or not you like Emma Watson, or whether you just can’t stand another movie with Josh Gad singing a song that may or may not be sung by children for years afterwards, I highly suggest you go and see it. It’s an entirely different movie than the original, and in my mind, that makes it worth seeing.
It’s a B+ movie, but it’s already gotten accolade after accolade after accolade. So, I guess, regardless of whether or not you see it, it’ll still go down in records that will be as old as time.