‘Beauty and the Beast’ brings magic to life

By David Napolitano

From wondrous and monstrous fantasies to the blooming passion of love, the magic of fairy tales continues to enchant and inspire the deepest dreams and the darkest fears.

Following suit to Disney’s original animated masterpiece, “Beauty and the Beast,” the new life-action adaptation of the same name discovers the compassion and beauty within unlikely lovers and the fear of the unknown.

Despite shattering box office records out-earning the 1991 original, as Cogsworth said, “If it’s not Baroque, don’t fix it.”

This tale as old as time begins at an extravagant party held by a selfish prince (Dan Stevens).

An old woman enters and offers an enchanted red rose for food and shelter, only to be greeted by cruel rejection.

After her weak warning of true beauty lying within, the lady reveals herself as a divine enchantress and curses the castle and those who live in it.

Workers are now talking furniture, the prince is a hideous beast and his glowing and gorgeous castle is now a dark and lonely shadow of its former self.

Before the final petal falls, the beast must find true love and be loved in return to break the spell or be doomed as a lonely monster forevermore.

On the other side of the woods lies a quiet village, home to bookworm Belle (Emma Watson) and her eccentric father, Maurice (Kevin Kline), an artist and inventor.

Colorful residents include pompous war veteran Gaston (Luke Evans), his flamboyant sidekick Le Fou (Josh Gad) and a modest group of people who have trouble understanding why Belle doesn’t want to settle down with a special someone like all the other girls do.

After Maurice loses his way en route to a market, he is attacked by wolves and is forced to trespass within the Beast’s castle for refuge. As he plucks a rose for Belle, the Beast catches him and condemns him to be imprisoned forever.

When Belle searches to rescue her father and learns about his life sentence, she selflessly takes her father’s place.

During her stay, Belle befriends the Beast’s workers, including Lumiere the candelabra (Ewan McGregor), Cogsworth the mantle clock (Sir Ian McKellan), Mrs. Potts the tea pot (Emma Thompson) and one of her children, Chip the teacup (Nathan Mack).

Eventually, Belle discovers a gentle soul within the Beast’s mean exterior. As they spend more time together, she finds he is misunderstood.

As a musical, the film is entertaining. Alan Menkin and Howard Ashman’s classic songs “Be Our Guest” and “Beauty and the Beast” regain the magic of the original. New songs in the film like “Evermore” discovered different ways to retell the classic story.

The film’s acting, however, ranged from decent to great. While Watson’s average singing voice isn’t comparable to Paige O’Hara from the original, she managed to portray Belle’s charm through her acting.

Performances by the talking furniture were also well realized, but the highest praise goes to Stevens, Evans, Gad and Kline. Through song and execution, all of these actors expanded on the complexity of each character from the original film.

One of the biggest technical hurdles of remaking “Beauty and the Beast” was hand-drawn animation’s infinite space that live-action lacks. Last year’s “The Jungle Book” proved that a distinct style, new narrative and technical innovation cover up those seams. However, “Beauty and the Beast” Director Bill Condon and his team pulled off a commendable job in Disney’s latest live-action adaptation.

One particularly impressive visual effect was the castle. Though artificial, it was so detailed it took on a life of its own as intended in the story.

The recreations of the furniture, particularly Lumiere’s creative design, were a nod to their hand-drawn counterparts and blended into the new setting.

While this film was a strong production, it raised the question of the remake’s purpose.

The film’s inconsistent pacing made some of its highlights feel too rushed to leave an emotional impact. Unlike other Disney remakes, “Beauty and the Beast” didn’t develop its own identity enough to be considered unique. Nonetheless, it was a captivating revival of an iconic film.

Whether “Beauty and the Beast” is a younger audience’s introduction to the story or nostalgic to those who grew up with the original, it successfully brought its magic back to life.

Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

‘Beauty and the Beast’ movie poster

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