Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Review of Beauty and the Beast: Emma Watson Leading the Way for Disney’s New Feminist Heroines

Review by Kelly Byrne


Stunning Emma Watson                        Credit: Disney
After almost a year long marketing campaign, there were two popular and opposing sentiments surrounding Disney’s new live-action Beauty and the Beast: excitement and indifference. The latter comes as no surprise since Princess movies tend to target specific audiences, namely daughters and their parents. Many who grew up with the 1991 animated film questioned the necessity of this live-action addition; what would director Bill Condon add that Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise failed to incorporate in the original?  

Having grown up during the Disney renaissance, during which period such movies as Tarzan, Mulan, Hercules, Pocahontas, and The Lion King among many others were produced, I consider myself to be fairly brain-washed by Disney.  I therefore forwent my St. Patrick’s Day plans and checked into the Arclight in Santa Monica to watch what I hoped would be an exciting and fresh take on a classic story.  And like most things ‘Disney,’ I was not disappointed. 


The film’s greatest asset was its cast. Emma Watson, who is also a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, brought new wit and feminism to Belle, a character already known for her bookish and headstrong nature.  Belle was never a damsel who needed saving, and Watson’s take on Belle made her that much more of a 21st century role model for young women.  

                                                                                                                                                                                 Photo Credit: Disney
Without a doubt, however, it was Josh Gad, who played Gaston’s right hand man LeFou, who stole the show. With no formal music training, the actor (who voiced Olaf in Disney’s Frozen) brought humor, wit, and a sense of redemption to the almost-villain.  It seems the camera cannot keep itself off of Gad, even when it is not “his scene.” He was funny and different from the LeFou we know from the original movie, and his performance was anything but secondary.   

The voices and diverse cast of characters was a genuine plus for Disney’s remake, but there were some things that the original animated version did better.  The big sweeping shots that Condon had were sometimes overwhelming on the big screen. In animation, it makes sense to have big ostentatious musical scenes, but the live-action version seemed at times too surreal. “Be Our Guest” is supposed to be a grandiose scene, but dancing dishes lend themselves better to a cartoon than they do to psychedelic computer graphic imaging. And the massive library in the west wing, though much more realistic in scale in the live-action movie, appears much less grand and exciting than in the animated film. But if these were the only qualms, then it is a job well done. 

                                                                                                                                                                           Photo Credit: Disney

In general, the new Beauty and the Beast is a fantastic retelling of a classic film whose theme is all to timely in 2017 America. With the country and the world becoming more polarized by the day, I see no better time than the present to remind audience members both young and old of the millennial tenet: it does not matter what you look like, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.      Who would have thought that a bunch of fictional french peasants would still be teaching us that just because someone is an outsider does not mean they are evil? If you have the means, I highly recommend tuning in to this new and imaginative film. With a love story, adventure, and songs we all know, it is sure to put a grin on even the most beastly of us. 
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Woman-O-Meter Rating:  👠👠👠👠👠👠
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