Anticipation has been so high for Disney’s new live-action version of Beauty and the Beast that the film’s second trailer set an online viewing record with 127.6 million views in the first 24 hours. Is it because the 1991 animated version of the film was so beloved? After all, it was the first animated movie to ever be nominated as Best Picture– and not in the animated category (which didn’t even exist then). Is it because Emma Watson is so popular (she's got nearly 25 million Instagram followers)? All I know is that anyone I told that I saw an advance screening of this film asked, “How is it?” and “When can I see it?”
I was excited but skeptical. How could one possibly improve upon this national treasure? The singing! The dancing! Gaston’s over-the-top ego! Belle’s taming of the Beast! Well, perhaps they didn’t improve upon it per se—but it is definitely entertaining, perhaps a tad more sophisticated than the original, and, for many of us, nostalgic. For those two people out there who aren’t familiar with this fairy tale —a young provincial girl named Belle (Watson) is held captive in the castle of a beast (Dan Stevens) who is actually a haughty prince upon whom a spell has been cast by an enchantress to teach him a lesson about beauty being only skin deep.
For the spell to be undone, The Beast must learn the meaning of and find “true love” before the last petal falls from a rose that the enchantress has left him. As part of the spell, the enchantress turned the castle’s staff have into inanimate household objects–clocks, feather dusters, ottomans–but they are very animated indeed which makes for quite an interesting ensemble.
There’s also a side story—the shallow village Cassanova Gaston (Luke Evans) has his sights on Belle, a bookworm who wants nothing to do with the vain hunter. Flanked by his trusty sidekick Le Fou (Josh Gad) Gaston wastes his time trying to impress her and cruelly belittles her inventor father who refuses to give him her hand in marriage. Of course there ends up being a battle royale between the Beast and Gaston and of course Belle and The Beast fall in love just in the nick of time. This is, after all, a fairy tale.
There are few missteps—a little overzealous use of CGI, especially with The Beast and some background info that felt a bit unnecessary (what happened to Belle’s mom for example). But those are easy to overlook. Your favorite songs are all here, major stars bring the characters to life, the sets are amazing and there are some cool special effects. There are also a few homages to other classics (look for scenes reminiscent of The Sound of Music, King Kong and Frankenstein). Take your niece, your daughter your next door neighbor’s daughter, heck your mom—and relive this tale as old as time. Believe me, no one will be gloomy or complaining while the flatware’s entertaining.
Here—the six things we loved most about this film. And don't forget to catch it in theaters, starting this Friday, March 17. (Spoilers, obviously, below.)