Beauty and the Beast is a remake, with live actors, of the classic 1991 Disney animated film. Having said that, I want to stay focused on this production and leave comparisons to those of you who remember the original.
This new version is beautifully mounted in its bountiful use of color scenery, its very good acting by the principal players and the inclusion of animated characters voiced by various film stars. The background score and the songs that are sung (many from the original) add to the splendor of the film. Beauty and the Beast could have been shorter. There were too many scenes that were drawn out, adding up to 2-plus hours for the film.
Emma Watson is Belle, a young, lovely farm girl, living in a small, isolated, quaint French village. She lives with her widowed father, Maurice (Kevin Kline), who is an artist. Belle is not unhappy in her life, but she does have a yearning for some broader experiences.
There is a young man in the village, Gaston (Luke Evans), who is wealthy and prominent. Gaston is arrogant, pompous and generally obnoxious. He is in love with Belle and wants to marry her. Belle is absolutely opposed to that idea.
Maurice is out delivering a piece of his artwork when he is attacked by a pack of wolves in the forest. He manages to escape by riding his horse away from the area and he ends up in a remote area at a huge castle. The castle is inhabited by household objects that exhibit human traits.
The teapot and teacup, the wardrobe, the coat tree, the feather duster, etc. all talk and move as if they were alive. Maurice is taken aback and then he is taken prisoner by the homeowner — a tall, hairy, horned, monstrous looking beast, who is not friendly.
The Beast is actually a prince who has been converted by a sorceress for an offense he committed. He will remain a beast until he finds a woman with whom he shares a feeling of love.
Belle learns that her father is missing and goes after him. She tricks the Beast into freeing Maurice in return for her confinement.
When Belle escapes and flees on horseback, she is pursued by the Beast. They encounter the wolf pack and the Beast is badly wounded. Belle cannot leave him. She gets him back to the castle and treats his wounds. His attitude is softened and they become friends. Eventually Belle warms to his gentle personality and his intelligence. Of course, love happens!
Maurice makes it back to the village where he is denounced by Gaston because he will not pledge his daughter’s hand to Gaston. Gaston organizes the villagers into a raiding party to destroy the Beast and rescue Belle. In the final battle at the castle between the Beast and Gaston, Gaston falls to his end from a high bridge.
Then Belle and the Beast, i.e., the Prince, pledge their love and the Beast is restored to the figure of a handsome prince (Dan Stevens). This version of Beauty and the Beast is worth seeing as a prime example of the Disney magic.
There is a problem I had with the original version in 1991 and it is the same here. The demise of Gaston, his falling to his death, seems to me a bit too heavy for the vast population of children who will see Beauty and the Beast. I think a more effective and less-disturbing climax would be to have Gaston defeated and humiliated by the prince, so that he becomes the village fool and laughing stock from then on.
Beauty and the Beast is playing at Harkins Sedona 6 theater.