2:45 pm EDT, March 17, 2017

‘Beauty and the Beast’ review: A tale as old as time (again)

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Beauty and the Beast hit the silver screen late Thursday night and dazzled audiences with music, star-power, and stunning visual effects. However, does that mean it delivered the magic?

Everyone knows the story. Tale as old as time. Belle (Emma Watson), is a beautiful yet peculiar girl living in a small-minded village. She is taken prisoner by a monstrous beast (Dan Stevens) in the place of her father. Little does she know, there is a dark curse on the castle in which she resides. The only way to break said curse is if someone can teach the beast to love. It is a story that has already been told before in a few different mediums. The original fairytale story, an animated film, an opera, and a Broadway musical. So what, if anything, justifies another retelling?

‘Beauty and the Beast’ review:

To be quite frank, this live-action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast is less of a “remake” and more of an enhancement on the original. If you took the visuals from the animation and placed them over the audio for this new film, you would face little discrepancies. There is one thing to note, however. Every change you do see is one that either fixes things that were wrong with the original, or adds character and depth to the story.

In this you find the film’s greatest strengths, but also its greatest weaknesses. For example, the issues of Stockholm syndrome, bestiality, and the Prince’s age are all fixed. Each character within the film is given more to work with. The simple addition of backstory, fears, and wishes for every member of the cast pulls this fairytale off the screen and right onto your lap.

However, throughout the film, I found myself wishing more and more that it were less and less like the animated original. To me, the similarities took away from the film because I caught myself comparing much too often rather than getting lost in the true beauty that was unfolding before me.

That isn’t to say, however, that the film isn’t magical. Yes, some pieces of the work left an unwelcome taste in my mouth. But overall, I found myself completely lost in this poor provincial town.

The lavish costumes, make-up, and choreography of “Prologue” hook you by the navel and pull you straight into “Belle.” The rest of the film is much out of your control. You dance along with the devilishly handsome and equally menacing Gaston. You cry out in fear as Belle fights away snow wolves. You fall in love, as Belle does, with the tenderness of a beast.

Related: We need to talk about the beard line in Beauty and the Beast

The musical numbers had me smiling and soaring at the same time. “Forevermore” remains my favorite scene of the movie. Meanwhile, Audra McDonald’s vocal trills stand as the best cameo in the entire film. Yet, after each musical scene ended, a small part of me wished they hadn’t been included in the movie. Yes, I loved them, and yes the “Beauty and the Beast” sequence makes this story what it is. However, I truly believe that other ways of story telling and narrative could have been better utilized. As I watched, I wished this film was more like 2015’s Cinderella and less like 1991’s Beauty and the Beast. Paying homage to the original was nice, but again, I found myself comparing too much. I wasn’t enjoying the film like I wanted to, or like it deserved.

Overall, I really enjoyed the film. The things I disliked about it were never enough to pull me out of the story for more than a moment. The casting was perfect. Every addition and change was made with love and respect to the original. Beauty and the Beast truly is a film of magic. It is driven by love, curiosity, acceptance, and hope.

Grade: A-

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