A “Tale as old as time” has returned to theatres! Nearly twenty years ago, Walt Disney Pictures released one of their most beloved fairy tales to date, Beauty and The Beast. Breaking box office records and becoming the first animated film to be up for an Academy Award for Best Picture, Disney has gone on to create their smash Broadway adaptation and, now, a live action re-telling of the film has been released.
When The El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood told Michael and me to “be their guest” (see what I did there?) for a showing of Beauty and the Beast, I could not wait to see what both Disney and the theatre had in store for a showing. As someone who can get quite anxious in movie theatres, I always have a great time at The El Capitan. They go beyond your usual day at the movies with a rousing pre-show with LA favorite, organist Rob Richards. For me, Richards has become my favorite part of heading out to The El Capitan. Each visit, it is such a treat to hear all of your Disney favorites (Under the Sea, Be Our guest, A Whole New World…) brought to life by an ample organ. I can only imagine the shivers it gives the kids!
Following Rob, we were in for an additional surprise as their curtain has been adorned with thousands of sparkly Swarovski crystals, and they presented a remarkable show boasting projections of lights to capture the beauty that is on their curtain. Set against a Beauty and the Beast score, the music and lights will get you pumped to enjoy the film.
As the film starts, we no longer hear that spooky, deep gentleman’s voice. The introduction to our Beast (Dan Stevens) and his castle begins at a masquerade party he is giving (and narrated by a woman’s voice). When the now infamous beggar woman comes to the door, the Beast is infuriated she has crashed his ball, and, of course, kicks her out. While most audiences have always awaited the transformation scene at the end, this new spin on getting an insight to the Prince’s change into a Beast was a welcome change and certainly set the mood for his character.
For our opening number of Belle, we at last meet our heroine, played by Emma Watson. While some quirks and elements to the opening has changed, it basically stayed close to the original. With it being one of my favorites from a musical opening, that made me happy!
I appreciated the character development to this film that both the cartoon and musical lack somewhat. We are introduced to Gaston (Luke Evans) and Le Fou (Josh Gad), of course, in the opening sequence, and they added so many new layers to these beloved characters you love to hate. Especially Le Fou (more on that later).
Stevens was an extremely good choice for the Beast. When we first meet him, he is ferocious, cold and spares no mercy when Belle’s father (Kevin Kline) stumbles into the castle’s garden in hopes to pick Belle a rose. Something he has done on every voyage he takes (another new take. I thought it was an interesting tie in and connection to Belle and the Beast from the beginning). As the tale goes, Belle begs the monster to spare her father and take her prisoner instead. It is soon after we are better acquainted with some of our favorite Disney side kicks, Lumiere, Cogsworth, Babette and the Wardrobe.
One of my favorite Broadway stars, Audra McDonald, hilariously portrays the Wardrobe, and in her former human life, is married to the castle’s piano (Stanley Tucci). Ewan McGregor is an absolute natural at the flirtatious Lumiere. Having just seen McGregor in Trainspotting 2, it reminded me just how diverse and versatile he truly is. Ian McKellen’s Cogsworth is also on spot and he brings more laughs and smiles to the already lovable role.
As far as Evans’ Gaston goes, he is a really good version for a live action film. I have seen Beauty and the Beast live countless times and in those live performances, I have always enjoyed the booming baritone vocals to Gaston, which I felt Evans did not have. Until, the rousing “Kill the Beast” number. Evans redeemed himself to me and I loved how true to the original this song and dance number was. He gave so much cruelty to the role, and was not afraid to be downright sinister. The ultimate “Disney Villain”.
I feel I will be in the minority here, but, my least favorite performance? It was Emma Watson’s Belle. I just do not see her as our Disney heroine. I was hoping she may wow me with her voice, but, alas, I was not too impressed. Luckily for Watson, she was surrounded with such a terrific cast that in my opinion are born naturals at their roles, which assisted in her Belle and adding the support the film needed to make it “dazzle” over the top.
As far as some interesting character development, I appreciated Kevin Kline’s Papa was not as dautering as he is usually portrayed. Both Belle and Papa are inventors, and he appeared to have more legitimate inventions and not chalked off as a “joke”.
And, for Josh Gad’s Le fou, so many elements and layers were added to the infamous sidekick. Much like Gad explained earlier this year in an interview, that as Gaston’s friend, “He sometimes wants to be him, and other days wants to kiss him.” Le Fou clearly has feelings for his friend, and is torn as he is seeing Gaston first make a fool of himself as he attempts to woo Belle, then see his dear friend turn evil and does not know which side to stand on. As for this film “robbing the innocence” of children with the homosexual innuendo’s? Yes, there is a very innocent final scene for Le Fou. It is cute, it is innocent, it is nothing (but awesome). I thought it was a great subtle turn to a character we did not know too much about.
Beauty and the Beast is playing world-wide and is currently the #1 movie in the world. Have you seen it yet? Or, have you seen it a few times?! Special thanks to The El Capitan for having me! xo