If you’ve ever wondered what happened to Mr. Potts, Belle’s mother, or why the entire town just conveniently forgot there was a castle in the woods this adaptation hold some answers.
I had high expectations going into this movie because I loved the live-action adaptation of Cinderella they did a few years ago. While the story Cinderella (and Beauty and the Beast) has been remade countless times. I felt that this particular Cinderella excelled in the same way that Ever After (telling the same narrative) did as well: elaborating more upon just the idea of a pretty face. The Prince meets Cinderella in the woods and decides to marry her, or at least wants to pursue her, from that encounter. The writers gave her determination to “have courage and be kind” even in the face of adversity. They gave her personality, strength, and a mind of her own.
But while the Cinderella archetype had room for elaboration, the Belle character has often remained the same. She loves her family, no matter what and displays it when she takes her father’s place in the castle. She loves to read, and she’s feisty and angry toward the Beast, but as he softens so does she.
Despite the standard “more developed” character of Belle, I thought Disney did an excellent job with this remake.
We are able to see more into Belle’s relationship with her father, which I adore. They present Maurice as less crazy than usual, which I appreciate. Belle helps her father with his inventions and creates some of her own, which was something new. I had wondered what (if any) songs they would add in from the Broadway musical, and the one I missed here was “No Matter What“. Aside from the townspeople thinking Belle is just odd, they also display some cruelty early on, which I think gives more insight to why they were so easily pulled into the mad mob.
A few notable notes for me:
The first introduction to the (beautiful) enchanted castle, of course, gives us a glimpse of the loveable cast of characters living there. Initially, the animation of Mrs. Potts and Chip bothered me. Because the characters need to actually look realistic, well, as realistic as anthropomorphic housewares can be, their facial features needed to be more subtle.
Another song missing for me was “Home”, after Belle takes her father’s place at the castle, but it does present itself in the background music, which I appreciated.
The beast has more personality than I’ve seen in another adaptation, which aids in the narrative of the growing friendship between Belle and the Beast. There are some insights into his childhood and upbringing that explain how he came to be the man he is. And like the animated version, the library scene is as endearing as ever.
I had the thought during the ball and the title song, Beauty and the Beast, that it seemed odd not to have Angela Lansbury singing it, but Emma Thompsons did well with the iconic song. Though I did think her speaking voice was weird, it didn’t sound like her at all…
On the topic of singing: obviously, Audra McDonald was stupendous, and the rest of the cast did well too. However, at times Emma Watson’s voice disappointed me. It wasn’t the quality but rather the believability that she, in that exact moment of the film, was singing. The audio just seemed separated from the scene at times.
The enchantress in this adaptation gives the Beast one more item (aside from the rose and the mirror): an enchanted book. If you’ve ever wanted to know what happened to Belle’s mother, this scene is for you. Heartbreaking, really.
One thing I wasn’t counting on in this film was ever feeling a bit of pity for Gaston. But if you watch LeFou during “Gaston”, you’ll see him giving money to the tavern patrons to get them to sing along. Perhaps, Gaston is not as loved as we have always believed. Or, at least as I always believed. And as for LeFou, I never watched the videos or read the articles about this “controversy”. I did however, pay particular attention to him for this reason. But ya’ll. I don’t know what the big deal was all about, it’s no worse than some other Disney characters.
Oh, and don’t forget the man in the beginning who has forgotten something, but can’t remember what.