All right, so I finally dragged my husband to see the live action Beauty and the Beast film. Belle is my favorite Disney princess of all time, with Mulan as a close second. (She’s technically not a princess, but she’s still amazing.) You can see the appeal; a girl living in a small town, who prefers reading over social functions and dreams of adventures. I felt a personal connection with this girl, and the love story between her and the Beast is just so sweet. I want to start by saying that I enjoyed the film. I understand why most of the changes were made and why some additions were thrown in there. That being said, there are definitely pros and cons.
- Pro: The setting. I absolutely loved the details of the village, the enormity of the castle, the spookiness of the forest, the costumes, the colors. It was all amazing. I felt as if I had been transported into 19th century France.
- Pro: The music. Everyone had beautiful voices. All the original songs were included, with the addition of three shorter musical numbers that immersed themselves flawlessly in the story. I was in awe at the musical talent and deliberateness in the score. It added to the magical-ness of the whole film.
- Pro: The cast. I greatly admire Emma Watson, Sir Ian McKellen, Ewan McGregor, Luke Evans, and Emma Thompson. They all did an amazing job at bringing this animated story to life.
- Pro: Beast’s past and Belle’s mother. I really liked how they elaborated on what happened to both of the main character’s mothers and how it impacted their childhood. It explained why the prince was the way that he was (without his mother’s influence, his father was able to warp the young boy into a miniature clone of himself) and it also explained why all of the servants in the castle were cursed too. Apparently, they did nothing to stop the prince’s transformation into a shallow, selfish man. The death of her mother explains Belle’s fascination with the world beyond her little village. (Her parents met and were married in Paris.) I believe it made these characters a little deeper and more relate-able.
- Con: Belle’s affections toward the Beast. Throughout the part of the movie where they are getting to know each other, Belle’s character seems curious and amused, not necessarily like a girl who’s falling in love. There was just so much more emotion on the animated Belle’s face while she was singing and reading with the Beast. You can tell that her view has changed and now she’s starting to see good qualities in the Beast. By the time the famous evening of dancing comes along, she’s completely comfortable with their relationship and on the brink of falling in love. The teasing and more personal conversations that were added in the live action film were good. I enjoyed them and I’m glad they were added as it showed the two talking about deeper things other than books. I just wish Emma Watson had expressed a little more emotion during those scenes other than playful amusement. Then it would be more believable when she tells the Beast that she loves him. It seemed to me that the Beast was more infatuated with her than she was with him, especially after that passionate solo he sang while she was galloping away from his castle.
- Con: Ewan McGregor’s French accent. I loved him in Star Wars and Mulin Rouge! He can sing, dance, and fight with a lightsaber. He’s a great actor. He brought a playful and determined edge to the live action Lumiere that I loved. I just couldn’t believe his French accent. It seemed too forced to me, too fake, like he could have used some lessons. Everyone else’s accents were believable (although, now I’m wondering why Belle didn’t have an accent…), but I couldn’t buy Lumiere’s.
- Con: Maurice. In the animated film, Belle’s father is very smart. He’s a bit oblivious of the world around him, but that is often one of the key characteristics of an inventor. They are creative, driven, and not too interested in anything other than their work and their loved ones. In the live action film, Maurice is a grieving husband and tinkerer. We see him working on a beautiful music box that portrays a personal scene of his past (an evening where he painted a portrait of his wife and infant daughter), and several of his drawings are on display in his work room. He’s more of an sad artist than a brilliant and misunderstood scientist. This change in the character also changed the relationship between him and Belle. Belle’s the adult; she takes care of him, makes sure he has enough to eat, and assists him in his tinkering when his mind isn’t entirely focused on what he’s working on. It made him more of a blah character than an interesting one. I understand that it added to Belle’s mother’s story, having Maurice be forever changed by the death of his one true love, but in reality it wasn’t as important to the story. At least, I didn’t think it was.
All in all, I think it’s safe to say that both films did the story justice. I’m looking forward to the other live action Disney movies that are coming soon. (Mulan especially!)