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In 1991, at the age of nine, I was taken to a Disney film by the name of Beauty in the Beast by my grandmother. This film was slightly less song-driven than a lot of Disney films from the past such as Fantasia, but kept the low-age audience's attention with a compelling storyline and a dark, climactic ending. I walked out with a feeling of bliss over the fact that our anti-hero triumphed in the end despite the fact that he was almost murdered.
Over a quarter decade later, at the age of 34, I got the chance to take my daughter, of about the same age I was back then, to see the live-action remake of this film. To be honest, I went in thinking that there was no chance of this topping the film I saw as a child, but I had heard wonderful things on social media. As my wife, daughter, and myself walked out of the Imax theater, I had a similar feeling but different at the same time.
By the time the first song, “Belle,” sung by Emma Watson was finished I started to imagine that the entire live-action film would be a shot-for-shot remake and I was open to that possibility. However, that dream was shot down rather quickly when Belle’s father, played by Chris Kline, sung a short little aria as his introduction opposed to the animated version’s failed invention scene. Every single song from the ‘91 cartoon was represented nearly flawlessly in this reincarnation, except for “Gaston” where LeFou, played by Josh Gad, stole the show. Finally, the biggest song (though not the last), “Beauty and the Beast” was sung by Emma Thompson this time; rather than Angela Lansbury, but it did not suffer by the replacement.
The two films had a nearly identical story, except for just a few changes to story progression. In the animated motion picture, the Beast was crude and scary in the first act, then ultimately softened up to reveal his inner beauty as a kind man. In the updated film, the Beast was similar to that, but with a little added comedic undertone and sarcasm which I felt made him more relatable to today’s 21st-century audience. The biggest change in characters is LeFou, the most unlikely and biggest surprise of the entire movie. LeFou begins as he did in Disney’s first outing, as a smarmy whipping boy to his “superior,” Gaston, but with an added little bromance between the two. By the third act, however, LeFou realizes he’s been batting for the wrong team and becomes an ally to the inanimate objects defending their home from the angry, torch-carrying mob.
The main takeaway from this incredibly well done film is that you can’t look at it as a remake or even a reboot. It’s a new interpretation of the classic story of a monster that must win the heart of a young girl in order to not only save himself from a lifetime of heartache, but also the lives of his castle’s inhabitants. The biggest comparison between the two is that ‘91 version had three main characters and in the 2017 version, everyone is a huge part of the story and completely necessary; more of an ensemble really. If you’ve seen one film, then you must see the other and if you’ve seen neither then you’re insane and need to see both immediately.
Thanks for reading.