Piggybacking off the success of recent live action adaptations to its animated library, Disney unveiled its modern retelling of the tale as old as time to audiences this weekend. Based on the box office reports, a lot of audiences at that. And while the Twitter-verse and various blog sites continue to hem and haw over the necessity of another visual iteration of this story, I will simply tell you that you should ignore it at your own risk, because the experience is breathtakingly magical.
In the name of full disclosure, I’m a bit bias toward Beauty & the Beast. I was under the employ of the Mouse when the animated film came out, and the future Mrs. and I had our first date at a showing on Disney World property. I hold that film in very high regard, both as a masterpiece of animated filmmaking and for the sake of nostalgia. To that end, please accept this film on its own merit. Don’t muddy the waters trying to compare it to previous versions, animated or otherwise. I won’t belabor this post with words outlining a plot we are all familiar with. Suffice it that the core of the story remains, with a little bit of fluff in spots which only serve to enhance the story, not alter it. No childhoods are being ruined here.
Disney has turned the production value up to eleven. Previous animated to live-action adaptations have fared well- I look at Maleficent, Jungle Book, and Pete’s Dragon as good examples- but none of those fine films can touch the majesty on display with Beauty & the Beast. It would be criminal if the Academy were to ignore these set designs and costumes next February. If I must find a reason to criticize, I did find some of the visual effects and visual editing to be a touch blocky in spots, but never distractingly so. For the most part, the scenes that really mattered came off seamless.
As for that “other” big thing being bandied about on the Interwebs, I will not dignify it with debate here. I’ll just say, if THAT truly does hold you back from seeing this film, then I feel sorry for you that your life is so devoid of joy. It is much ado about nothing, and I implore you to take it as such. There is a line in the film, and I paraphrase it here…”People who are angry say a lot of things…it’s up to us whether or not to listen.”
The cast works on every level, but Emma Watson is a pure revelation, whether aided and abetted by Autotune or not. She is a voice the next generation of young girls needs to rally around. Knowing what she stands for and how she manages herself in a world that is built to obstruct her as a strong woman, makes her presence on screen all the more engaging and important. And she is enchanting at every turn.
Don’t let the cynics dissuade you. Beauty & the Beast is a magical, dazzling spectacle of pure enjoyment, even though you know how it all shakes out in the end. Each flicker of a candelabra or twirl of a ball gown is handled with the utmost of care. When I look back at my own time at Disney, I fondly recollect those moments when the real magic was being made. For every ignorant adult that couldn’t stop complaining about the long lines, or the prices, or whatever, there were dozens of children, young and old, laying eyes upon Cinderella’s castle for the first time, eyes wide and full of wonder, unsullied by the cynicisms that consume too many of us. And when a young girl in my theater, perhaps all of six years old, squealed “BELLE” when the character first pops on screen, I realize that Disney is still making magical moments. This is still the tale as old as time. And it is timeless.
STEVE CLIFTON has been writing moderately well on the Internet at this blog, Popcorn Confessional, for the better part of the last decade. His love for movies can be traced back to the North Park Cinema in Buffalo, NY circa 1972, when his aunt took him to see Dumbo. Now living in Maine, Steve routinely consumes as much film, television, and books as time will allow. He also finds time to complain about winter and Buffalo sports teams. He is a big fan of bad horror films and guacamole, and mildly amused by pandas.