In 1992, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast became the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture. With beautiful visuals, a stirring soundtrack by Alan Menken and the very Disney themes of acceptance, inclusion and the power of love, the film was essentially a greatest hits record for the legendary movie-making outfit.
Now, in 2017, it gets another spin. And the sound remains the same. Director Bill Condon and an all-star cast led by Emma Watson have created a live-action adaptation that proves this tale is, in fact, as old as time.
Watson’s Belle is one half of the titular pair and Dan Stevens is solid as the other. They are surrounded by a strong supporting cast, highlighted by Kevin Kline as Belle’s father (a role that is more fleshed out this time around) and Josh Gad as the very gay (gasp!) LeFou. Everyone’s favorite animated house items are also delightful, played by an array of famous names that are best revealed at the film’s end.
As with the original, the movie hits its stride when the beauty and her beast start to see each other in a new light. She is obviously guarded (because of the whole beast thing) and he is all bumbling masculinity, unsure of how to say what he feels and doubtful she could feel the same way (you know, because of the beast thing). They dance their famous dance and afterward, when he brings up his feelings, she smiles.
“Really?” he asks in equal parts hope and disbelief. “You think you could be happy here?”
The unique dynamic that such a scene operates on is timeless, holding just as much power now as it did decades ago. Outside of its emotion, however, the movie does an impressive job of adapting itself to 2017. The soundtrack maintains the core of what made it great while also adding a few nice ballads. The visuals are cutting edge and exceptional (although buying a 3D ticket would, of course, be a waste).
In all, it’s hard to watch this reboot and deem it anything other than a success. Will this new Beauty and the Beast earn a Best Picture nod of its own? No. But it’s the type of movie that leaves you satisfied at its conclusion, walking out of the theater with your hands in your pockets and the remnants of a smile on your face.
The strongest case Beauty and the Beast makes for why it deserved a reboot doesn’t lie only in its adaptability. The themes of the movie, the very same that earned it such love in ’91, remain simple and strong. In this love story between two outsiders, so much of the film seems to be about who we choose to let into our lives and who we choose to keep away. And this time around Disney included a gay character and a few interracial couples, in case you didn’t get the message.
The relevance doesn’t stop there. Late in the movie, Belle returns to the town to free her father. The villagers have dismissed his ravings and she must prove to them that a beast exists. She summons the face of her love in the magic mirror and the people gasp. They rally around Gaston, suddenly the leader of a resistance against this new and frightening other. As a call to arms, he shows them the face of their enemy.
“This is a threat to our very existence,” he bellows to the crowd.
Like a beast, the villagers roar.