Disney is back in theaters with a live-action remake of the beloved animated “Beauty and the Beast,” and it has all the ingredients to be a crowd pleaser — but is it?
In this adaptation of the 1991 animated film, a selfish prince (played by Dan Stevens) is cursed by an enchantress, doomed to forever live as a beast unless he can learn to love and be loved in return. When bookish maiden Belle (Emma Watson) stumbles upon his castle in search of her missing father, Maurice, (played by Kevin Kline), the beast’s servants — all of whom have been transformed into objects — conspire to pair the two together so that the curse can be broken.
The live-action “Beauty and the Beast” is a faithful adaptation that stays close to the animated film’s plot and dialogue, only deviating to include three new songs, more backstory, and some subtle changes to the plot. At face value, it should be a magical theatrical experience.
It has Watson in the lead as Belle, sure to attract fans of the “Harry Potter” series. The scenery looks majestic and enchanting, almost as if it morphed onto the screen from animated cells. All the old and familiar characters are there — Mrs. Potts, Lumiére, Cogsworth and the Beast.
But there has been some controversy about this film, directed by Bill Condon, because it features the first confirmed homosexual relationship in a Disney film. Many parents have chosen to boycott it for that reason, so as someone who has now seen it, here’s what I think parents should know.
First of all, I truly believe that controversy has been misleading. Yes, Gaston’s sidekick LeFou (played by Josh Gad) is portrayed as gay, but there is no gay kiss or even romance. There is a brief shot near the end in which LeFou is seen dancing with another man, but if you blink, you’ll miss it, and it’s so subtle, I doubt children will even notice it.
However, there are some scenes that might frighten young and sensitive children that seem much more violent in live action than animated. For example, when the wolves stalk Belle and attack the beast, the fight that follows is quite brutal. The beast’s early scenes are also menacing and he might frighten small kids not used to his horns or seeing him presented as a real creature.
Keep in mind the movie is quite long at nearly 2 hours and 10 minutes, so very little kids will probably get antsy. I did overhear several young girls — maybe 10 or so — exclaim how much they enjoyed the movie after my screening, so I’d guess that it’s appropriate for kids 9 and older.
The story's message, however, remains a good one for all ages — that beauty is only skin deep and it's what's inside that matters. Compassion is a strong theme, too.
As for my opinion of the movie, I felt like something was missing from this live-action remake — maybe its soul. It was visually stunning for the most part, and the old songs were fun and nostalgic to hear, but I had a hard time connecting with the characters the way I did in the animated movie of my youth.
Maybe I’m more sentimental toward the original than I realized, but after enjoying the live action remakes of “Cinderella” and “The Jungle Book” so much, I had high expectations for the live action “Beauty and the Beast.” Instead, I was left longing for the original.
Rated PG for some action violence, peril and frightening images, "Beauty and the Beast" is now playing in theaters.