Beauty and the Beast – a movie review (WARNING!!!! – THERE WILL BE SPOILERS, SO IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT YET, BEWARE!!!)

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(Yes, I know, not a picture from the movie. I don’t intend to have my blog post taken down for copyright infractions, so here’s a beautiful picture of a red rose.)

Disney’s live action Beauty and the Beast finally made it to Netflix, so I was able to see it. I was a little uneasy, given all the hype and just how many friends of mine were all going gaga over it. But I decided to see what all the fuss was about. I just have two words to say:

Oh. Wow.

Scenery/Setting – It was very well done. I liked the look of the houses, the shops, and the little extra pieces that showed just how where Belle was living was a very plausible working village.

The people – The minor characters fit their roles quite nicely, and many had personalities so they weren’t just flat, static characters. I enjoyed that.

The enchanted servants – Again, the minor characters were fun to watch and see how they interacted with everyone else.

Let’s move on to the main characters.

Maurice – I was initially a little skeptical about Kevin Kline playing Belle’s absent minded father. But Kline nailed the part perfectly. I enjoyed his quirky personality and how he showed that as her father, Maurice genuinely loved Belle and was just trying to protect her – though at times he was frustrated she didn’t appreciate the protection.

Belle – Emma Watson was amazing as the intelligent and spirited young woman who chose imprisonment to save her father’s life. She also chose compassion when given the opportunity to flee, which just added to the complexity of her character’s personality. I love how this Belle was more inventive than the one in the animated series. Instead of just being a pretty bookworm, Belle was out to transform her world.

The Beast – I don’t know much about Dan Stevens, to be perfectly honest. I don’t watch that many movies anymore and I’ve never seen any of the TV series he’s been in (though Downton Abbey is on my watch list), so I went in with no preconceived notions about his acting skills and who should/should not have replaced him. Granted, his “costume” was all CGI until the end, the whole attitude of his Beast was incredibly vivid and amazingly awesome.

Gaston – I knew Luke Evans would do the part justice, as he’s already given Bard a touch of personality that I adored in the second and third Hobbit movies. So when I watched him play the arrogant little twatwaffle that is our favorite narcissistic arsehole, I fell in love with his portrayal. It was so good.

Lefou – And here’s the surprising break out character for me – Gaston’s mostly loyal sidekick Lefou. Played by Josh Gad, Lefou broke so many rules of Disney movies it was hilarious. I can see why people were screaming about him being gay – because as far as I’m concerned, he is. That whole turmoil with his character is one of the best parts of his personality in the whole movie.

The story – I liked how they portrayed the prince from the start. They also didn’t seem to imply he was an eleven year old child who didn’t know any better, though I’m not entirely sure on that one. The enchantress was beautifully done, and watching her turn the servants into the animate inanimate objects was interesting. I also liked how they explained how a freaking huge arse castle, an entire royal line, and all of the family’s servants could just one day up and vanish and no one noticed.

When we get to Belle and her father, I like how Maurice’s profession went from being a crazy inventor to a music box maker. I really liked that touch. The dynamic between Maurice and Belle was slightly different too. She was his helper but he was also her protector, and you could tell the deep affection they had for one another. It wasn’t as shallow as it seemed in the animated movie. Even from the beginning you can see the questions Belle has about her mother, and her reluctance to ask them.

I loved Gaston’s reaction to the three identical looking women in the opening scenes where they’re all cooing and calling to him, having his horse splatter mud all over them. It shows what a jerk he is without having someone come out and call him a jerk to his face. We see a lot of his personality also in his conversations with Lefou about Belle, and his reaction to those same pretty girls.

Belle’s continued resistance of Gaston’s advances serves to infuriate the man, but I love how controlled Gaston is during all of them. It’s a little frightening, to be honest. It shows just how psychotic Gaston can be.

I prefer the method they had of getting Maurice down the path towards the castle than having him be a moron and take it as a shortcut. I also liked his comment about how it’s snowing in June. The demonic wolves were a nice touch too.

In the earlier versions of the faerie tale, Beauty’s father’s crime was stealing a rose from the Beast. In the animated movie, he was imprisoned simply for entering the castle. When I saw Maurice go to take the rose for Belle, I knew what was going to happen – and it pleased me to no end to see them go back to the more traditional method for getting Maurice imprisoned. Seeing him imprisoned for just trying to dry off and get warm again was a little annoying.

Belle finding her father in the castle and then shoving him out of the cell after promising him she’d find a way to escape was a nice touch, and heartbreaking to see the looks on their faces. Maurice’s attempts to save Belle – and Gaston’s initial betrayal of him – was masterfully done. As was Agatha’s rescue of Maurice.

As Belle’s affection for the Beast grows, he seems more and more human. It’s very enjoyable to watch. Then he takes her to the book that allows them to travel wherever they want to go. She chooses Paris, to the little garret where she’d been born. There she learns the truth of why they left her mother behind, and why she and her father were alone. It’s one of the most heartbreaking moments of the entire story, as far as I’m concerned. She collects the rose shaped rattle and she and the Beast return to the castle.

The Beast finally makes the attempt to convince Belle to stay with him (and we get the iconic “Beauty and the Beast” song), and Belle asks the question of how can you be happy when you’re not free. She wants to see her father again and he gives her the magic mirror to see him. When she looks in, she sees her father being tortured by the townsfolk for accusing Gaston of leaving him to die. They’re so besotted with the megalomaniac that they’d take his word over Maurice’s and now they’re attempting to beat the crap out of him before sending him to the asylum. Belle wants to rush to his side to help him and the Beast – knowing he loves her and knowing she’s his last hope – lets her go and, in his mind, loses his only chance at being human again.

You have the mad ride back to the town, her showing the Beast in the mirror, and Gaston seizing the mirror and locking her away with her father. She escapes and returns to the castle to help the Beast. But we’ll get there in a minute.

Let’s talk about the assault on the castle. The high amusement factor of the Beast’s servants dealing with the invaders is just absolutely wonderful. It’s also heartbreaking when you consider many of them are risking permanent disfigurement, should they return to human form (think the Maestro shooting his keys at people). But their loyalty to the Beast is so much that they’d risk anything to do what they couldn’t do before the Enchantress cursed them all – protect him. As Mrs. Potts said, they couldn’t stop his father from turning him into an evil little prat. The least they can do is stay with him and protect what’s left of his humanity. And now they protect him and the castle.

I like how Mrs. Potts spots her husband in all the mess. It makes you really wonder a) how long has the castle really been hidden, and b) just what has the Enchantress been up to? Did she freeze the town in time so all of the loved ones of those in the castle would still be there should the curse be broken? Hm…

Now, back to the fight between the Beast and Gaston. Gaston gets to the Beast and just starts shooting. And the Beast, depressed and unable to care anymore if he lives or dies, lets him attempt to kill him. Then Belle returns and the Beast goes to her side. He gets the chance to kill Gaston, but instead lets him live because Gaston pleads with him. While the Beast and Belle are reunited and talking to each other in the west wing, right next to the table with the rose on it, Gaston shoots the Beast again with the gun he dropped earlier, dropping the Beast (who’d already taken two or three shots to the back by that time). He then falls to his death because the arch he’s standing on breaks under his feet.

Agatha, aka the Enchantress, headed upstairs during all the fighting and is now watching Belle and the Beast say what looks to be their final goodbyes. You see the Beast actually die. Then you see the last petal fall. You see Cogsworth, Lumiere, and all the others turn into actual inanimate objects. Belle sobs over the Beast’s apparently lifeless body, begging him to come back, telling him she loves him.

It appears Agatha has a soft spot for Maurice and his daughter because she restores the rose and brings the prince back to life, returning him to his human form. In doing so, she restores the servants to their human form, gives the whole world back their memories, and reunites families separated by her curse. Cogsworth’s reaction to his wife (at least I’m assuming it’s his wife) was priceless. (And Sir Ian McKellan’s portrayal of the portly mantle clock was brilliant.)

They get their happily ever after and we get an amazing movie. It has its flaws, and nothing is entirely perfect, but I enjoyed it and will give it a 4 out of 5 stars. I’ll also watch it again relatively soon. 😀

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