One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about this page was the idea of it growing to feature other writers and fandoms that I might enjoy but might be too busy to write about. Thus, we have our guest writer, Megan King to take care of the Disney reviews…so without further ado :
*Mild Spoiler Alert*
I want to go on record stating that I was just shy of 6 years old when Beauty and the Beast released on November 22, 1991. It was a true cinematic adventure for a 5-year-old girl who desperately wanted to grow up to be a Princess. It caught my attention like no other Disney movie previously had, because here was a girl like me- a girl who loved to daydream, who loved her books (albeit at 5 years old I was WAY more into coloring books than trying to read), and who’s upbringing was considered a little unconventional, being the child of divorced parents in a time when divorce was not as commonplace as it is 20 years later. Here was a common girl with big dreams and an equal intellect who, despite unfortunate circumstances, found romance, love and (most importantly to my 5-year-old mind)- became a Princess. Belle was truly a critical part of my foundation as a person. So believe me when I say that going into the 2017 live rendition of Beauty and the Beast, I had high expectations for what this film should and should not be, and equally what it should and should not include. While I could ramble on and on about all the things I absolutely adored about this movie, and the few things I thought interesting (though not bad!), I have to keep this concise otherwise none but the most diehard of Disney fans will read. Allons-y!
Imagine my delight as the Beast’s beautiful chateau is pictured at the opening instead of Cinderella’s castle. I squealed and repeatedly smacked my BFFs’ arm in excitement, because I have a serious distaste for Cinderella and anything to do with her (rooted in my childhood incapability of finding anything Aurora in lieu of Cinderella). I got shivers, and the 5-year-old in me was hooked on the cinematic beauty that is Bill Condon’s Beauty and the Beast. Condon truly kept to the very heart of everything that this story entails. The movie unfolds almost scene for scene, with a few changes along the way. Kept are the iconic musical number in which we see Belle (Emma Watson) in her village, and her odd role within it. Changed, however, is her role from the dutiful, daydreaming daughter of the town’s eccentric inventor into one who is a free thinking, educated and independent young woman, daughter of the town artist. Her new development truly reflects the independence of women today and subliminally speaks to how the role of women today has changed and is further evolving- going from a society where women reading and having ideas is shunned into one where it is welcomed. Maurice’s (Kevin Kline) character becomes a little less eccentric himself into someone caught in a sad, romantic past he cannot entirely escape from.
Belle and Maurice aren’t the only two characters who have changed. Gaston’s (Luke Evans) character has developed from a man whose entire character was based in small-town naivety and egoism into a true bully and brute, someone who has seen the world through war, and has been left marked because of it. He has been left bloodthirsty with serious anger issues. With LeFou (Josh Gad), we have a realistic explanation for his enchantment with Gaston.
The Beast (Dan Stevens) hasn’t changed much as far as his character behaviors go, however we discover the basis for his emotional instability- an emotionless father, and a mother who died while her son was young. Lumière, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, Chip, and Plumette all did not deviate from their original characters, either, with the exception of Cogsworth losing his sass. While I didn’t catch the lack of his dramatic flair the first time I viewed it at the Thursday night sneak peek, I definitely noticed it lacking the second time I saw the movie when I took my children.
There were a few new characters, as well- Pere Robert (the village priest) and Maestro Cadenza.
The enchantress was given a larger role in the new film, becoming a watcher of the town and castle she enchanted with her curse, seeming to have more invested in the area than just a removed punishment. What, truly, is her connection to the area they resided in, or the royal family she signaled out? Why did she pick this Prince to punish for his transgressions, shallowness, and selfish ways? Was it something he did, or his father? Madame Garderobe also took a more prominent role in the movie than she had in the animated film, due to her relationship with Maestro Cadenza.
As a whole, the village was a true epitome of a small town- everyone knew everyone (and the business that went with each individual), they were all like-minded due to their close, small proximity, and were stand-offish if not downright unwelcome to the idea of change and forward thinking, as made apparent when Belle tried to teach the young girl to read. Did anyone else notice how the village, whom had probably spoken pretty badly of their monarch due to high taxes for his lifestyle, immediately welcomed and rejoiced at his return (and the return of their memories) when the spell was broken? This same town also never gave a second thought to the man they had just lost, the man who they had raised up, praised, and envied. Basically- these hoes ain’t loyal. Good for Belle to get out of that, because how stagnant and crippling a community, where they judge and tear each other down so freely, a community where leaders and role models are forgotten so easily. Might I add here that Stanley (of the Tom, Dick, and Stanley trio, played by Alexis Loizon) was an unexpected delight and personal surprise favorite in the movie, because YAS QUEEN during the famous battle for the castle.
When it comes to the storyline, I was delighted that it kept true to its’ beginnings. I was also delighted to discover more of Belle and the Prince’s backstories- why Belle was in that village, how the Beast was turned into who he was. While the movie lacked the impromptu, surprise wedding celebration, we did see the monstrosity that was underneath Gaston’s glamor when he left Maurice for dead in the woods, prey to the wolves. We saw how and why the Prince was raised to be such a shallow, self-serving Prince. We discovered the heartache that Maurice kept from his daughter, and why he chose to keep her in the safety of a small village. But was physical safety worth her mental and emotional well-being? The visuals that went along with the story were absolutely, in a word, breathtaking. It was enough to move one to tears (and I did cry). The color, the beauty- both simple and extravagant, were dead on the mark of the time period the movie was set in, albeit an ideal, fantastical period (for it definitely lacked anything visually ugly that would have been true of the time). And the ballroom left me utterly speechless, whereas I had been engaged in singing (and sometimes speaking) along with the movie. The emotions of the movie were truly moving, truly stirring.
The new score for the movie was absolutely glorious, too. You can hear the emotional ride that the movie goes on in the soundtrack alone (which I have listened to almost obsessively since I last watched the movie, and am currently listening to). We were given the old favorites, given new life: Belle, Gaston, Be Our Guest, Something There, and Beauty and the Beast. Left out was a relatively unknown To Be Human Again, and we gained three new wonderful, moving songs: How Does a Moment Last Forever, Days In The Sun, and Evermore. I just want to ask- how did we ever live without Evermore as part of the original? The song occurs after the Beast lets Belle go back to her father, and truly epitomizes the love and loss the Beast feels for her, knowing he did the right thing by her while simultaneously coming to terms with the things he’s done, the things he feels, and the future he thinks he will have without her. It is a sad, powerful score of love, loss, and hope. I get chills every single time I hear it.
Overall, this movie was- for me- the movie of the year. It is definitely everything that I had hoped and prayed for it to be, and more. Other than wishing Ian McKellen and Bill Condon had kept more of Cogsworth’s sassiness and sarcasm (Because who wants to live without lines such as “If it’s not Baroque, don’t fix it!” and “Oh the usual things- flowers, chocolates, promises you don’t intend to keep.”). 2017’s Beauty and the Beast is truly a movie for all ages, a neo-classical addition to the trademark tradition of magic that Disney is famous for. I believe that had there been the chance, Walt himself would have given the Mickey-eared stamp of approval.
Happily Ever Yours, Megan King