Movie Review: Beauty and the Beast
By Steven Slater
March 22, 2017
Is it really such a curse when you can live in a mighty castle, travel all over the world, see through a magic mirror, take on wolves in hand-to-hand combat and have feisty talking objects serve you exquisite meals and dress you in fabulous outfits?
I think it is better to not be overly familiar with the 1991 animated version of Beauty and the Beast when you see the new Disney live-action version. I was a wee little lad when the animated version came out, and although I have fond memories of it (and I certainly have some of the songs in my pop culture lexicon), I have not seen it in its entirety since it was in theaters. This is a benefit, since the new version is almost a shot for shot remake, and you might inevitably be comparing the new version to the one already held dearly in your heart. The good news is that it succeeds far better than Gus Van Sant’s try at such a technique (score one for Bill Condon, I suppose?) But then again, if you love the animated version, you have probably already seen this one three times.
There’s a beauty, and her name is a bit on the nose, at least for a French woman. She’s a bookworm type, a bit of an outsider, which you would imagine would fit Emma Watson fairly well considering her most famous role. Then there is a beast, whose name is...well, Beast. He is some random prince who treats an old witch poorly when she is looking for shelter (couldn’t she have conjured up a tent?), and so she curses him in the peculiar way of transforming him into a large Tasmanian devil, his servants as objects rather closely associated with their names, and gives him a rose that seems to know just when to wither and die. If the Beast can love and be loved by another before the last rose petal falls, the curse will be lifted. It’s as though the plot elements knew the whole story before it even happens! I know, it’s a fairy tale, with a broader idea at hand. But you weren’t going to see this movie because you were a fan of the original tale by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, were you?
The Beast’s castle is a prison that is hidden from most people’s view and removed from their memories by the curse. Fortuitously, Belle’s father happens upon it during his merchant travels, only to be imprisoned for attempting to steal a non-magical rose. His escaped horse leads Belle back to the dark stone castle, where she trades her freedom for his. The Beast has no use for her, but his servants devise a plot to play matchmaker, hoping to reverse the spell put upon the castle and return them all to human form. Of course, Belle’s hopeless suitor from town, the insufferable narcissist Gaston, throws a wrench in that plan, leading to a confrontation just as la Belle et la Bête are getting to know one another. Will true love save the day?