A tale as old as time
Accompanied only by the soft crunching of popcorn, the familiar opening theme fills the newly darkened theater. Several people in the audience seem to smile in unison as nostalgia washes over them like a wave. After almost three decades of existing as 2D animations, some of media’s most beloved characters now spring to life on the silver screen.
Starring Emma Watson and Dan Stevens as the titular characters, the live-action remake of Disney’s popular fairytale cartoon “Beauty and the Beast” premiered on March 17. As of March 26, boxofficemojo.com lists it as the number one movie in the nation. Other notable actors include Luke Evans as Gaston, Josh Gad as LeFou, Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, and Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts.
For those unfamiliar with the classic tale, “Beauty and the Beast” follows the story of Belle, a beautiful, intelligent young woman who lives with her widowed father in a quaint French village. Belle wishes to escape her boring small-town life, and despises the idea of marrying Gaston, the local war hero who wants Belle for his own. Belle’s father becomes lost in the woods and takes shelter in a seemingly abandoned castle. He and his horse soon come face-to-face with the castle’s owner – a selfish prince who, after having a curse put upon him, transformed into a hideous Beast. The Beast captures the old man and locks him away while the horse rushes home to the village.
After Belle learns of her father’s capture, she rushes to the palace to rescue him and, after some bargaining, takes his place as the Beast’s prisoner. Fortunately, Belle escapes her lonely cell and receives top-notch pampering, thanks to the help of a collection of talking, singing household objects who, like their master, had fallen under a spell which stripped them of their human forms. They have a special mission: they want Belle to fall in love with the Beast and break the curse that has kept them all from humanity for many years. At first Belle and the Beast go at each other’s throats, but as the story progresses, so does their relationship.
The film’s visuals present themselves as nothing less than enchanting. With glittering golden swirls gracing the air and a plethora of lights and colors dancing across the screen, the audience experiences a floating sensation. Perhaps the most dazzling aspect of the entire movie, the Beast’s castle, serves as a feast for the eyes. Ornate, hulking and mysterious, viewers can follow Belle and company through a complex series of twists and turns as they venture through the magnificent magical palace.
Disney devotees will feel more or less pleased with the soundtrack. Most of the musical numbers stay true to those of the original cartoon, with a few tweaks and switches here and there. Watson sets the scene with the lively “Belle,” while Evans and Gad deliver the jaunty and comical bar number “Gaston.” Ewan McGregor as Lumiere rallies up his fellow sentient objects and serenades Belle (and the audience) with “Be Our Guest,” complete with whizzing colored lights and a cutlery dance routine, and Thompson tugs at the audience’s heartstrings with the mellow “Beauty and the Beast.”
The movie itself seems to fly by – at no point does the plot drag or slow its pace. Like the soundtrack, the story stays true to the original tale with only a few deviations that, in actuality, enhance the plot and give lesser-known characters a little more backstory. Moviegoers can sympathize with the characters more and have a better understanding of their struggles.
Fans of the 1991 cartoon and newcomers alike can transport themselves to the pristine world of “Beauty and the Beast.” Fairy-tale fanatics of all ages will enjoy the enchanting tale of romance, rapport and revenge. Disney has once again triumphed in bringing to life a tale, in the words of Mrs. Potts, “as old as time.”