Hi everyone! Today I’ll be reviewing Disney’s live action Beauty and the Beast movie! Like many others, I grew up with Disney and have continued to do so. I was really looking forward to seeing this version.
Now, originally I was going to review the live action against the animated film, much like how I do with books and their movie adaptations, but I think that kind of review wouldn’t do it justice. I’ll still add a bit of that here and there, but it won’t be fully a movie vs. movie review.
This past weekend I finally went to see the film! We showed up at the theater at 11:30am even though the movie started at 11:30am… Of course it was sold out by the time we got to the box office! So we bought tickets for the 1pm showing and went down the street for a bit before returning half hour early to get good seats.
Belle has always been my favorite Disney Princess, a huge part of it being that Belle loves to read! At school I was always the kid that was reading whatever I could get my hands on. I would take my school textbooks home and read them for fun! Plus, Belle truly is the heroine of her story. She’s brave, smart, and determined.
Since it was my favorite Disney film I was worried that the live action wouldn’t live up to the animated film. Of course, Beauty and the Beast was a film that Walt Disney himself struggled to get right and ultimately didn’t as it wasn’t completed until 1991 (my birth year!). Then when the reviews started coming in and they were so favorable I was reassured but knowing how highly I hold the animated film, I still thought that it was possible that I wouldn’t be satisfied with the live action.
Now I can state that I loved it! But more on that below. As always, I’ll start with a spoiler free review but this one will be different. I’m assuming everyone has seen the animated film so I will include spoilers on the actual plot I suppose but I’m not going to spoil things that are specific to the live action film. After this section the spoiler section will be announced and a header will be displayed. Before the spoiler section there will be a theatrical poster from the film and after as well, both images from Google. I have a lot of thoughts on this movie so let’s get to it!
Spoiler Free Review
So like I said, I won’t spoil anything specifically related to the live action film. This film is considered a remake of the animated 1991 film and a lot of it is the same. If you’ll remember, the trailer for this film matches the 1991 film’s almost frame by frame. There are a few differences, but those differences don’t take away from the film, rather they fit in beautifully into the story we already know. This is a perfect homage to the animated film and a live action movie done right.
Emma Watson plays the beauty of the title, Belle. She is such an amazing actress, and really brought new life into a timeless character. I loved her performance, as I do with a lot of things she does because she’s so awesome, and felt that she did such a great job with the role. The other characters that also appear in the animated film were also true to their original characters, but definitely put their own spin on it and added to the story.
Every detail was perfectly in place. The costumes were breathtaking, inspiration drawn directly from the animated film but updated and transformed. Before the film was released there was a lot of publicity surrounding Belle’s yellow ball gown, in which Emma Watson insisted should be worn without a corset. The town and castle are their animated counterparts brought to life.
That’s really all I can say without spoiling anything so I’ll end that there. Go see the film if you haven’t already and if you have, proceed onto the spoilers!
I have to say, that this film was full of surprises! As stated earlier, the trailer was almost identical to the animated film’s trailer, so going into it I expected a film that would do much of the same. I didn’t think it would be exactly the same, of course, but I was very surprised at some of the new scenes and at how many of them there were.
At the beginning of the movie, it didn’t stray much from the original, most of the differences came at Beast’s castle. Because of this when the changes started rolling in I started to get nervous that the rest of the film would feel rushed! Turns out I shouldn’t have worried. The animated film clocks in at 84 minutes of running time and the live action gets 129 minutes, so there was plenty of time.
I think my favorite added scene was the scene where Belle is trying to teach a young girl to read while she has her donkey do the laundry with an invention of her own. Belle is so determined to do the right thing and help a little girl learn to read. While it doesn’t end so well, as the villagers tell her off and dump her laundry on the dirt ground, it was very sweet to see her connect with a young mind and think that she’ll positively impact the little girl into breaking the status quo at the village. As LeFou later reveals, he’s illiterate so the rest of the village likely is as well, even though a group of boys can be seen entering a building that looks like it is a school.
There were many changes to Belle that were downright perfect. I loved the scene where Gaston tries to invite himself over for dinner and Belle gently lets him down by saying “no… not tonight”. Gaston then asks if she’s busy, seemingly a little surprised but obviously not understanding that she meant never. Belle then responds with a very straightforward and blunt answer, “No”. I definitely laughed out loud at that part! Later in the film Belle tries to help Gaston see reason and tells him that they’d never make each other happy. Watson’s Belle is more forthcoming and outspokenly honest.
This kind of leads me into another observation I made, which was how much more physically violent or vicious the characters seem to be! Not in a “I’m going to kill you” sort of way which we still get through the mob scene. More in an accidental way for the most part. For example, Belle gets a few minutes to say goodbye to her dad, and I immediately suspected that she would push her dad out of the cell so she could stay in his place. I didn’t expect her to shove him so hard he would fall backwards out of it! I expected him more to stumble. There was also the snowball fight scene where Beast launches a snowball at Belle that knocks her over when it hits her. Of course, she started it but still!
I think one of my favorite things in this one was the weather. This might sound strange but hear me out on this. In the animated film I’ve always found it hard to figure out how much time the film spans as there are many seasons and the Beast is only meant to be 21. In the live action Maurice is perplexed when he gets lost by the falling snow, as it’s June. In the live action, it is eternal winter at the Beast’s castle and the events take place over the course of days.
Of course, this does make their relationship evolve much more quickly but that is where the genius of the writers comes in. Beast takes Belle to Paris through the magic book and shows her the apartment where her family lived before her mother died. At the beginning Belle reveals that it’s painful for her father to talk about her mother, as she begs him to tell her just one new thing about her mother. It’s clear they rarely talk about her although Belle wants to know more. Earlier in the film, the household objects have told Belle of how the Beast came to be so cold hearted. They admit that they did not interfere after Beast’s mother died and his father taught him to be cruel. Through that scene, albeit much smaller than the Paris scene, Belle is able to take the power into her own hands to decide to start to get to know the Beast, thus opening the doors to their eventual romance.
Now onto a few more observations. First, the town of Villeneuve. The fact that Belle’s house is now in town rather than just outside of town really made a difference. Belle and the town have to connect more as they encounter each other more and Belle is so close to them, geographically. As a result they seem less tolerant of her differences since they seem to know her better, although you would think that it would be the opposite. In the animated film, Belle seems to spend less time in town, it doesn’t exactly seem to be an everyday activity. As a result, the town seems to think that yes, she is odd but they don’t have to really confront it. In the live action they do have to interact with her more and don’t seem to be comfortable doing so and show it more outwardly.This is likely also why Belle can be more blunt with them, because she’s just over their attitudes!
Another change to the town is the bookstore, which no longer exists. I think this is a very logical change, since now Belle gets her books from a tiny shelf of 10 or so books rather than a sizeable bookstore. If she’s the only reader in town, and she doesn’t seem to pay for the books, a bookstore doesn’t seem like a smart business venture, nor would it be able to stay afloat. Now the bookshelf is in the town cathedral and therefore her reaction is much more believable when Beast takes her to the library at the castle.
I talked about this a bit earlier, but the costumes were amazing. They were very, very similar to what the characters wore in the animated version, just a lot more detailed. The gold flakes that fall onto Belle’s ballgown were beautiful and there was matching gold accents on Beast’s blue suit. I loved that Belle’s dresses were also much shorter and she wore boots. Her blue town dress is tea length rather than ankle length and her dresses at the castle are also tea length instead of floor length. I thought it was very reflective of the changes made to her character.
Of course, there were computer animations for the enchanted objects and the magic in the world and such. When I first saw the enchanted objects I honestly thought they didn’t look very good and I thought they would be too distracting but they really didn’t do so. When in the film they fit in very well and did not take away from the story. In fact, they added to it when they admitted that they would just turn into regular household objects/antiques/rubbish depending on who you ask. Magic as a whole seemed to be a little odd though in the world of Belle. Maurice is quick to point out that magic must have restored the tree that fell when he got lost in the woods that eventually led him to the Beast, Gaston and the villagers don’t seem overly alarmed that Belle shows up with an enchanted mirror (well they are frightened of the Beast but don’t seem to mind the mirror itself that much), and while Belle was frightened of the Beast and even attacked the enchanted objects with a stool upon meeting them she eventually didn’t even bat an eye at the magic book. Magic doesn’t seem to be overly rampant but it’s common enough not to incite complete panic overall.
The music was beautiful! Alan Menken returned to compose new songs for the film, he was the composer for the animated film and the Broadway musical as well. “Belle” had a few lyrical changes but overall stayed the same and kept it’s original charm. Yes it made me cry. Same situation for the reprise.
“How Does a Moment Last Forever” was a new song for the film. First Maurice sings this song and Belle reprises it later. It was very cute and sounded lovely as they both contemplate how to hold onto the happiness in their lives forever.
“Gaston” I somehow don’t know as well but I believe it also had a few changes in the lyrics as well yet it was as hilarious as ever. It somehow didn’t seem as lively as the animated version and the bar as a whole didn’t seem as completely enamored with Gaston as I had been expecting but it was still funny and silly.
“Be Our Guest” was still the showstopper it always is, and it’s my favorite in the animated film, the musical production, and the live action as well. Yes, it also made me cry. I did that a lot. It also made me laugh because at least in the animated version Belle got to sample the food but in the live action it was all taken away as she tried to eat it. Poor Belle was left hungry! One of my favorite little parts was during this song when Lumiere is dancing under the water in a very “Singin’ in the Rain” style.
I would have loved to see “Human Again” rather than “Something There” but it was still sweet and simple. I still love this song a lot, so it wasn’t a disappointment or anything, but I do really love “Human Again”. However I think since we did get to know the enchanted objects pretty well we didn’t need to have “Human Again” and “Something There” helped convey the budding romance.
Ah, “Beauty and the Beast” was as magical as ever. Angela Lansbury is so iconic in this song but by this point I was so enchanted by the movie that I had no doubt that Emma Thompson would do it justice. There was no disappointed and of course I cried. The scene wasn’t overall as grand as I expected, it was simpler than I had though and not quite as bright but it was very beautiful and fit this film well.
A few more notes on this scene. In the ballroom, Belle and Beast didn’t dance perfectly together. Belle definitely took the lead and they while they clearly cared about each other they weren’t truly in love quite yet. Again, this was another perfect scene for Belle as she takes charge. When they talk afterwards they have a rather frank conversation about their feelings where Beast tells her how he feels and Belle explains that she wouldn’t be able to be truly happy as long as she’s a prisoner. At that point Beast fully falls in love with her and lets her go, which now opens the door for Belle to chose to do the same.
And now we move onto Beast’s new song, “Evermore”. It was such a great surprise to hear this song. I really liked it as Beast does go through the biggest changes and does so very quickly, but in this song he’s finally able to stand still and he has a very honest conversation with himself. Beast acknowledges the changes he’s gone through and his love for Belle, singing that although she’s left that he’s always going to have his memories of her.
The last major song, “The Mob Song” was pretty much exactly the same. The villagers quickly feed off each others’ fears and join Gaston to attack the castle and kill the Beast. There was a little bit of lyrical changes where Gaston basically acknowledges that he’s the natural leader of the group and will use his power over the people for his own benefit and where LeFou questions where he’s placing his loyalty.
The ending was a little drawn out I felt because we of course already know how the film ends but it was still good cinematography and seeing the enchantress as a witness to Belle and Beast’s love and seeing her make the choice to lift the spell even though the petals had all technically already fallen and all the enchanted objects had already become ordinary objects. The final ballroom scene was beautiful as well and Belle’s joke about the beard was absolutely charming.
Oh and I nearly forgot! (This is why I need to outline my posts!!) The diversity in this film was really refreshing. And I don’t just mean LeFou’s 2 second dance with a man. There are so many actors of color and interracial couples in this film. This still doesn’t seem to be all that common still since it’s mostly just at the castle from what I saw but it was still very nice to see on screen.
I believe that’s it, I know this was long so if you’re still here then special shout out to you! Hours after seeing this movie I was singing the songs and dancing around my office before finally sitting down for a few hours to write this post. It took me a lot longer than I anticipated but it was so worth it I think. I really loved this film and I can’t imagine a world where it doesn’t exist anymore. I don’t think it’s necessarily better or worse than the animated film, they’re both so special in their own way. I can’t wait to see it again and eventually own it! For now I’ll continue to listen to the songs and maybe watch the animated version a few times! I loved, loved, LOVED this film and I really do recommend this to any Disney fan.
And that’s my review for the new Beauty and the Beast! I hope you enjoyed it, both the film and my review. Let me know how you enjoyed the film in the comments! If you’re going to talk about a spoiler I just ask that you note that in your comment before going into it because I know I really tried to avoid spoilers for this one before seeing it and would like anyone else in the same situation to be able to do so!
Thanks for reading!