It’s surprising how well Disney adapts their own version of the shockingly beloved fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast.” While their Oscar winning animated version reigns supreme, Bill Condon manages to deliver his own interpretation that tweaks the tale here and there for new audiences with a great effect. I was quite stunned at how enjoyable “Beauty and the Beast” ended up being. While it has the familiarity of the 1991 movie, it’s also a unique experience that allows for a new angle on songs that are now deemed legendary. Condon approaches the live action remake/adaptation with a well balanced tone of whimsy and dread, allowing for a very subtle romance between Belle and the Beast.
All the while he emphasizes certain story elements that help the entirety of the movie make much more sense. For example, it always seemed kind of unfair that the entire staff of the Prince ends up being turned in to inanimate objects with their master, including young Chip. But Condon focuses on how the prince’s own selfishness and vanity made his staff and helper unfortunate recipients of the curse until the very end. Where the prince deemed a lot of his prior actions with self interest, his attitude ends up affecting everyone. Years after the prologue, we meet Belle, a bookish young girl who longs to break free from the doldrums of her village of Villeneuve.
She’s constantly pursued by the village hunk Gaston, who is in love with Belle and turns down every other girl in town in favor of her. When Belle’s father ventures out in to the woods for a delivery, he is lost and ends up at the cursed castle of the Beast. After stealing one of his precious roses, Beast imprisons him prompting Belle to come to his rescue. Belle agrees to take her father’s place as prisoner, and Beast soon takes a liking to her. All the while his staff, all of whom are eternally cursed as sentient anthropomorphic objects (like candle holders and clocks), welcome Belle in to their home. With Belle growing to form a love for Beast, Gaston takes advantage of the opportunity to help Maurice and try to murder the beast as a way of winning Belle.
Condon’s film is extravagant and quite beautiful but also manages to successfully translate the material in to a more subtle love story with themes about true heroism, the value of love, and how selfishness and cowardice are a curse on their own. Condon has a great time with the all star cast, but Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, and Luke Evans keep the film afloat with their great chemistry all the while adding more dimension to their characters. I still hold a place for the 1991 film, but Bill Condon’s “Beauty and the Beast” is both entertaining and heartfelt in its own right.