First of all, it was an insanely popular film, apparently, as it was sold out in two theatres. We raced across town after striking out at our local joint, only to strike out at the second place, too. In the end, we had to buy IMAX tickets.
I can say that this was worth it.
My Quickie Review
I loved this. Until Mulan, Belle was my favourite Disney "princess." She was much like me; head buried in books, stuck in a town and wanting so much more out of life than what she could see ahead of her. I think almost everyone who has grown up in a small town has felt that way at one point or another.
I'm not in love with the movie the way I am with, say, Pan's Labyrinth, but this was a solid, wonderfully entertaining musical that represented the original well (and even answered a few questions).
My Longer Review
This production was gorgeous. The costumes were beautiful. The scenery was beautiful. Even the tiny village Belle lived in was absolutely lovely. I mean, I would happily live there now (I would have hated it growing up in in, no doubt). Everything was bright and colourful, even when muted, as in the case of Beast's castle.
Luke Evans as Gaston was an exceptional piece of casting. The man can sing, and it is evident that he had a lot of fun playing the ridiculous, awful, narcissistic ex-captain. He was easily the strongest member of the cast, alongside the Beast.
Surprisingly, Emma Watson was the weakest of the cast members, which is not saying anything bad at all. It was a great cast. Emma is not a singer, so the fact that she could even hold a tune was pretty impressive, even if her voice was not the strongest. There was also a moment (when she was looking at her father through the mirror) when it felt a little too much like acting.
The Beast was also spot on, except for one moment near the end of the film. In the cartoon version, you can feel the weight of the Beast's broken heart more, I felt. In the scene where the villagers attack, his exhaustion and his inability to care about his approaching death is better portrayed in the cartoon than the live action version.
Weirdly, Dan Steven's prince was an almost perfect live action version of the cartoon prince.
I also like how this version answered a few questions brought up by the cartoon, like, how in heaven's name did everyone in a village nearby a castle not know that there was a castle. How did they not realize that their own prince had not been seen or heard from in a decade? This film answered that, thankfully.
Also kind-of addressed is the whole Stockholme Syndrome aspect of the cartoon that was a little worrisome. In this case, they took the time to make it seem much more like two desperately lonely people made a connection, rather than the captive damsel falls in love with her captor.
That's not to say that the issue is resolved, but I appreciate that they took the time to address it.
Making me smile, also, was the not-so-subtle acknowledgement of the oft-repeated lamentation that the Beast was far more attractive when in beast form than in human form in the cartoon, with this version having Belle ask her prince how he'd feel about growing a beard. I laughed far too hard at that line.
I know that there have been some people who have taken issue with the inclusion of gay people (and those people can get stuffed), and some with how gay people are portrayed.
Take what I say next with a grain of salt, because I've had all the benefits of being "straight" (so to speak) and am not speaking from a position where I've experienced the stereotyping people are complaining about.
I thought there wasn't an issue. Le Fou, though obsessed with Gaston, is actually incredibly sweet and moral. He wakes up, as it were, and even fights on behalf of the servants at the castle. He deserves better, as Mrs. Potts tells him. The other issue noted was the wardrobe's attack on the "three stooges," as I've called them, throwing rich garments at them until the three men are dressed as women. Two of those men are horrified and run away screaming. Another smiles and flounces away, with the wardrobe screaming "Go, my love! Be free!" after him.
I actually really enjoyed that moment. I thought it was quite sweet.
It's okay if it annoys you, though. I get why it might. Not all gay men enjoy dressing as women. Not all men who enjoy dressing as women are gay. I get it. I still found the scene quite sweet.
If you get the chance, do go see this film. It was very sweet, and a worthy adaptation of a animated film that I loved as a child.