Whenever Disney announces plans to develop a live-action version of a cherished and classic animated film, there is bound to be skepticism and doubt. Most people’s initial and main concern is casting. Who will play the characters we have loved since childhood?
Disney’s most recent adaptation, “Beauty and the Beast,” stars Emma Watson as Belle. The 26 year old British actress is most known for her role as Hermione Granger in the “Harry Potter” films, so one might find it difficult to detach her from that character. However, Watson absolutely shines in the shoes of the iconic Disney princess.
There was no doubt in my mind that Watson would be able to play the part well, but I was a bit skeptical about her singing ability. Nonetheless, from the moment the first note crossed her lips, I was surprised and enchanted by her musical talent. She brings a fresh and modern feel to the classic tale we all know and love.
A friend and fellow Disney lover of mine said that she felt Watson’s portrayal of Belle was inconsistent, especially concerning her accent. She was bothered that Belle would switch between speaking with an English, French, and even slightly American accent. While this is something I’ve noticed after further viewing, I still can’t say that it bothers me in the slightest.
Watson isn’t the only one to sparkle. Another notable musical performance is that of Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts. Although she is no Angela Lansbury, Thompson beautifully revives everyone’s favorite classic tune with poise, grace, and not a note out of place, reminding us all that love is timeless and knows no boundaries.
It would be a crime if this review did not mention the unsurprising talent of Josh Gad, who plays Gaston’s right hand man, LeFou. In this version of the film, LeFou appears to be exploring his sexuality, but in a way that doesn’t seem forced. Without giving too much away, viewers can epect to see LeFou get a satisfying scene that will leave your heart tingling with joy.
It is also important to note the amount of interracial couples in the film. Stanley Tucci plays Maestro Cadenza (a grand piano) husband of Madame Garderobe (a wardrobe) played by African-American actress Audra McDonald. The film also features the familiar characters Lumiere and Plumette, played by Ewan McGregor and British/South African actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw. It is my belief that every film should speak to the time period it is made in, and I think this one does a magnificent job of doing just that.
Bringing in their first openly gay character and two interracial couples was a leap of faith for Disney, but so far they appear to have made it to the other side relatively unscathed. This film is a true celebration of individuality. Some may criticize the wasted potential to do something drastically different with the film, such as have Belle and the Beast not end up together because this is the 21st century where anything can happen, but Disney is brave and sticks to the original plot. It was more of a challenge to make something new while also remaining within the boundaries of the original.
Throughout the movie, I was laughing, grinning until my cheeks hurt, and crying from nostalgia. The actors brought back everything I loved about the original story and shed new light on it. For the first time, I could look at a movie I had watched dozens upon dozens of times with more mature eyes, and I discovered many things about myself as a result.
This live-action adaptation reminded why I loved the original so much as a young girl. Belle is a simple, bookish girl who feels like an outcast in her small town. She longs for something more than the life she has been given. She is strong, brave, independent, and not afraid to fight for the ones she loves. Watson’s Belle reminded me that we are all capable of being beautiful and smart, fierce and kind, and most importantly, fearful and brave.