Nothing written here will help you fathom the true beauty of Beauty and the Beast. Adjectives fail. It’s something you have to experience to really understand. You want to see this on the big screen. It won’t be nearly as impressive on your TV.
Stylistically, it owes more to something you’d see on Broadway than Disney’s fabled 1991 animated feature.
Belle is trapped in a small village and longs for a bigger world. Fate interrupts her humdrum existence, and she ends up captive to a prince doomed to — unless he finds someone to love him — remain a beast to the end of his days. Cursed along with him are his servants. One is a teapot, another a clock and another a candelabra. There’s a piano, a footstool, a cup and a few more.
This version is touched up a bit with some expanded backstories. There’s also new music from Alan Menken and Tim Rice, which added to Menken and Howard Ashman’s originals.
Another important point. Animation is much more forgiving than real life. This is a bit darker and more violent than the original. The film’s cute creatures are fun and it’s impossible not to love Emma Watson’s Belle, but this one has a couple of scenes that might — depending on the maturity of your child — terrify the youngest.
Emma Thompson, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellan, Stanley Tucci, Audra McDonald and Gugu Mbatha-Raw give voice to the enchanted household items, and Kevin Kline, Luke Evans and Josh Gad play the main human characters. Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens is The Beast.
The casting of Watson (the Harry Potter movies) works. Her girl-next-door looks is perfect for the guileless Belle, and while her singing won’t blow you away, it fits the character and the movie. Her castmates — and, as noted, this is a terrific cast — get the same response. The music is more impressive than the vocals.
But it’s not just the music, the story or the actors that make this stand out. That’s not to say they’re not important, but they’re not what makes Beauty and the Beast one of the best ever of its genre. Director Bill Condon created a movie that can only be described as magical.
The effects, the sets and the film’s colors are — at times — jaw-dropping. In ordinary two dimensions, it is mind-boggling. Add that critical third dimension, and I guarantee it’ll take your breath away. Condon (Dream Girls, Twilight: Breaking Dawn Parts 1 & 2) plants a smile on your face at the opening sequences, and it lasts to the closing credits. And when the last credit fades and the lights change from dim to brigh,t and you get your breath back, you immediately start making plans to see it again.
Movies just don’t get any better than that.
Beauty and the Beast
Director: Bill Condon
Stars: Emma Watson, Emma Thompson, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellan, Stanley Tucci, Audra McDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Kevin Kline, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Dan Stevens
Mr. Movie rating: 5 stars
Rated PG for mature themes. It’s playing at Regal’s Columbia Center 8, the Fairchild Cinemas Pasco and Queensgate 12s and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen.
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it’s your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don’t bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.