Beauty and the Beast, of 1991, became the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, with unmistakable characters and songs and, in a word, craftsmanship. Emma Watson stars in the newest reboot of the nostalgic Disney classic, stuffed with a few real actors and many more hidden with masks of CGI and stretched reality.
The story is mostly untouched since 1991, as is much of the dialogue. It’s Emma Watson’s Belle, reading and being subtly feminist and whatnot in her village, with her adoring father Maurice (Kevin Kline) and the persistent Gaston (Luke Evans, incessantly and fruitlessly trying to impress the only villager who wears blue). Maurice loses himself in unfamiliar territory only to find he’s turned up in the enchanted castle owned by the Beast (Dan Stevens). The Beast is terribly misunderstood, wishing only for the day love breaks the hex that makes him the monster Maurice sees. As the story goes, the brave and vivacious Belle volunteers to take her father’s place and meets the furniture, consisting of Lumiere (Ewan McGregor)df, of course, the huffy clock Cogsworth (Ian McKellen), the teapot Mrs. Pots (Emma Thompson), and nameless others like the wardrobe (Audra McDonald), the feather duster (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), and a new harpsichord that plays itself and shoots its ivory keys like arrows (Stanley Tucci).
Emma Watson has channeled Hermione Granger to portray the new Belle; strong-willed, passionate, and intelligent, Belle has somewhat-subtle hints of feminism about her as she sings and dances through her village. Watson’s singing is no competition to six-time Tony-winning co-star Audra McDonald, who plays Madame Garderobe. However, her singing is enjoyable and clear, filled with the crave for adventure that is so apparent in the animated film, and that Watson reignites in this one.
Dan Stevens captures the most important and overlooked aspects of the Beast; his frustration in himself, anger with the world, and unseen loneliness that all slowly peels away by the hands of Belle to become a loving, compassionate character often swayed by passion and heart.
The music is the same tunes that had children singing and parents humming a quarter century ago, with a few new min-songs thrown in that seemed somewhat awkward at times. The original will always be a classic, and this new reboot is about as good as the other reboots are. Fun to watch, but far from classic.
Perhaps this new take will have you singing for days, too. Personally, it’s underwhelming but charming at best, although it is fun to watch simply because it’s graphically and cinematographic-ally pleasing. I suppose it’s up to you; do you like the Oscar-nominee, the classic animated film that stole the beast and the beauty from our hearts, or do you like to see Belle as a Hermoine Granger?