In Brief: Magical. No other adjective says it more perfectly.
Nothing written here will help you fathom the true beauty of Beauty and the Beast. Adjectives fail. It’s something you have to experience to really understand. This is an amazing film and one you will want to see on a big screen. The bigger the better and in three-dimensions.
It won’t be nearly as impressive on your smaller TV screen.
Stylistically, it owes more to something you’d see on Broadway than Disney’s fabled 1991 animated feature. Belle is trapped in a small village and longs for a bigger world. Fate interrupts her humdrum existence and she ends up captive to a prince doomed to — unless he finds someone to love him — remain a beast to the end of his days. Cursed along with him are his servants. One is a teapot, another a clock and still another a candelabra. There’s a piano, a footstool and a cup and a few more.
The story’s moral is the same. Love ought to be based on what we look like inside and not outside, and we must be kind to everyone.
The story is — however — touched up a bit with some expanded backstories. There’s also new music from Alan Menken and Tim Rice added to Menken and Howard Ashman’s originals.
And Beauty and the Beast runs 2:09 instead of a paltry 1:24.
Another important point. Animation is much more forgiving than real life. This is a bit darker and more violent than the original. The film’s cute creatures are fun and it’s impossible not to love Emma Watson’s Belle, but this one has a couple of scenes that might — depending on the maturity of your child — terrify the youngest among us.
Emma Thompson, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellan, Stanley Tucci, Audra McDonald and Gugu Mbatha-Raw give voice to the enchanted household items and Kevin Kline, Luke Evans and Josh Gad do the main human characters and Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens is The Beast.
The casting of Watson (the Harry Potter movies) works. Her girl-next-door looks is perfect for the guileless Belle and while her singing won’t blow you away, it fits the character and the movie. Her cast mates — and, as noted earlier, this is a terrific cast — get the same response. The music is more impressive than the vocals.
But it’s not just the music or the story or the actors that make this one stand out. That’s not to say they’re not important, but they’re not what makes Beauty and the Beast one of the best ever of its genre. Director Bill Condon has created a movie that can only be described as magical.
My only complaint? Once Stevens’ Beast sheds his fur, the baby-faced actor doesn’t look rugged or animal enough. Minor complaint, I know. But even Watson’s Belle notices and asks him if he’d consider growing a beard.
As noted earlier, there is no way to adequately describe the impact of what you’ll see. The effects, the sets and the film’s colors are — at times — jaw-dropping. In ordinary two dimensions it is mind-boggling. Add that critical third dimension and I guarantee it’ll take your breath away. Condon (Dream Girls, Twilight: Breaking Dawn parts 1 & 2) plants a smile on your face at the opening sequences and it lasts to the closing credits. And when the last credit fades and the lights go from dim to bright and you get your breath back, you immediately start making plans to see it again.
Movies just don’t get any better than that.
Director: Bill Condon
Stars: Emma Watson, Emma Thompson, Dan Stevens, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellan, Stanley Tucci, Audra McDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Kevin Kline, Luke Evans, Josh Gad
Rated PG for mature themes and some elements that might frighten younger or less mature children. The best of its genre ever. Give it a 5 on the Average Joe Movie 0 to 5 scale.
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5 to 4 1/2: Must see on the big screen.
4 to 3 1/2: Good film, see it if it’s your type of movie.
3 to 2 1/2: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 to 1: Don’t bother.
0:Speaks for itself.
Gary Wolcott has been a movie consultant for KXL since 2014. A lifelong fan of film, he’s been a film critic in radio, television and newspaper for 25-years. Wolcott catches a couple of hundred movies a year and he sees a great many of them so you don’t have to.
Got a movie suggestion or comment? Email him!