Direction: Bill Condon; Cast: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci; Story: based on Disney and Jeanne-Maria Leprince de Mount Beauty and the Beast; Screenplay: Stephen Chbosky, Evan Spoliotopoulos; Cinematography: Todias Schiessler; Producer: David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman; Music: Alen Menken; Genre: Fantasy/Musical; Distributor: Walt Disney Motion Picture; Location: France Running Time: 129 minutes;
Technical assessment : 3.5
Moral assessment : 4
MTRCB rating : G
Cinema rating : VA (Viewers of all ages)
During the 18th century France, a self-absorbed Prince (Stevens) is cursed and transformed into a hideous Beast after he turns away an enchantress disguised as a beggar looking for shelter. The rest of the castle’s household are transformed into objects and their existence is erased from the mind of the villagers. The enchantress gives Beast a rose and tells him that the curse will remain unless he learns to love and earns the other person’s love in return before the last petal falls. Meanwhile, Belle (Watson), a young free spirited lady who loves books and adores her father is laughed at by the entire village for her strangeness. One night, Maurice (Kline), Belle’s equally eccentric father, is captured and imprisoned by Beast for trying to steal a rose in his garden. Belle travels to the castle and frees Maurice in exchange for herself. In the process, Belle and the Beast discover each other’s real self and eventually fall in love. But Gaston (Evans), a vain soldier who will stop at nothing so he can marry Belle, stands in the way as a threat to their love and life.
Beauty and the Beast has an important factor playing both for and against it. It precedes a successfully popular animated version. Automatically, there is a captive audience familiar with the set up and music on the one hand and an outstanding version quite hard to forget and match. Production-wise, the live version is impeccable. Every last detail is either a charming replica of the animation bringing memories for the older generation and enchantment to the first time viewers. The music is familiar and enhanced with the modern interpretation and some new inspired songs. Evan’s Gaston is iconic and made memorable with his performance. Kline’s Maurice is a thoughtful and honest. We cannot same the same with Watson’s Belle and the CGI’d Beast. They just feel flat and sluggish in delivering their lines and belting the songs amidst the textures of the production. The single expression on Watson makes her a weak heroine. (Also there is too much Hermoine in her). The choreographies are unexciting as well. While the movie is indeed faithful to the animated version, it feels a little too faithful offering nothing new except it is no longer animated. Nonetheless, it still is a must-see film that transitions literature into animation and live action.
The movie celebrates individuality and acceptance. Belle, Maurice, Agatha (the enchantress) and Beast are misfits. But then, when we come to know their hearts and see them for the persons they really are, we realize that being different is not a liability. The movie also shows us that acceptance cannot come from others unless we transcend our struggles to accept and become comfortable with who we are. People sadly tend to prefer to see our flaws and weaknesses and belittle our potential to be great. If we rely on their impressions, we will be left depressed and desperate to fill that void by being self-absorb and vain—as Gaston is and as the Prince was. Real beauty is not skin deep but radiates from a heart that knows how to love, forgive and be unselfish.