New Spin on Tale as Old as Time

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The new live-action Disney movie Beauty and the Beast came out last week. Due to CGI and a few added songs, it gives the viewer a richer experience and tells a deeper story than the animated version.

Almost everyone knows the original, which came out in 1991. Set in the French countryside, it tells the story of a prince and his castle staff cursed by an enchantress because the prince was selfish. His only hope in breaking the spell is if he can truly show love and be loved in return. Belle, a village girl who wanders into his castle looking for her lost father, becomes his only hope.

Through the new version, available in 2D or 3D, Disney gives viewers a new kind of magical experience watching the story unfold. The talking furniture and props (what the cursed staff was turned into) looks amazingly realistic — in total proportion to a real candlestick, wardrobe or mantle clock.  

The casting is a combination of real actors and computer-generation.  Belle is portrayed by Emma Watson, best known as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films. She perfectly embodies the bookish but beautiful girl in “a quiet village”.

The Beast is portrayed by Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey), but his character is entirely computer-generated. Stevens gave two performances, which were stitched together to create the Beast — one in a motion-capture suit on huge stilts opposite Watson and another in a studio with special paint on his face.

Lefou, Gaston’s little side kick, is flawlessly funny as portrayed by Josh Gad, who is the voice of Olaf in Frozen. He is a perfect sidekick to Gaston, arrogant as ever, played by Luke Evans (Fast & Furious 6, The Hobbit).

All the the actors do their own singing. Some say Belle sounded a little too auto-tuned, which might be understandable because Watson is more of an actor than a singer. But some of the music was even better than the animated version. Broadway star Audra McDonald plays Madame Garderobe and sings a new song “Aria” during a lush scene at the beginning of the movie when the prince is holding an extravagant ball.

The beast also sings a new reflective solo expressing his love for Belle called “Evermore”.

Celine Dion, who sang the original title track (now sung by Ariana Grande and John Legend) sings a new song during the closing credits.

In addition to some new music, a few scenes were added to explain what happened to Belle’s mom and to understand the Beast’s past. The added scenes thicken the plot and allow open discussion and speculation after the movie.

The movie is more serious than the animated version — having less comedic bickering between Lumiere and Cogsworth — but enough is still there, and the viewer gets so much more on other fronts. Because of that, the movie appeals to a much bigger audience than little girls in princess costumes.

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