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March 20, 2017

Beauty and the Beast (2017) --- "A Beauty Discovers An Enchanted Castle, Meets Talking Dinnerware, And Falls In Love With A Beast. Is That Even Humane?"

Plot Summary
 Disney's animated classic takes on a new form, with a widened mythology and an all-star cast. A young spoiled prince (Dan Stevens) is imprisoned in the form of a beast and can only be freed by true love. As time goes by all hope seems lost of ever breaking the curse until one day he meets the beautiful and independent Belle (Emma Watson), who has left her provincial town in search of her missing father (Kevin Kline). While Belle stays at the castle and spends more time with the Beast, she learns that true beauty is found within. 

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Hello, Movie Buffs! 
     I had some mixed feelings before seeing the movie and that was due to two categories, casting and music; and both linked for similar reasons. At first, I did not approve of casting choices of Emma Watson as Belle (I did not like how Emma Watson’s voice sounded very auto-tuned) and Dan Stevens as the Beast; I and a few friends agree that Emmy Rossum and Sam Heughan should have been the main characters.
(Courtesy of friend, Kayla Wentworth)
     Since comparisons between this version and the 1991 animated version are inevitable; with a certain degree of personal opinion and childhood memories coming into play. Disney has achieved its goal of making timeless childhood animation movies that will last a lifetime thanks to The Little Mermaid (1989), The Lion King (1994), and Beauty and the Beast (1991). Now after 25 years Disney is looking to re-create the magic with Live Action versions; such as Maleficent (2014), Cinderella (2015), and The Jungle Book (2016). And now it is Director Bill Condon's turn of balancing live action, CGI and music for Beauty and the Beast. And when I saw this version of a childhood classic I was blown away by the movie, it had a balanced mix of old and new ideas.

     Luke Evans portrayal as a wonderfully pompous and villainous Gaston was superb. Josh Gad’s portrayal of the humorous and loyal sidekick LeFou was spot on and while his character is the center of widespread controversy, those moments of controversy were quick and subtle; I almost missed them when they happened. The castle staff includes Ewan McGregor as Lumiere, Ian McKellan as Cogsworth, Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts, Audra McDonald as Madame Garderobe, Stanley Tucci as Maestro Cadenza, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Plumette; each actor brings their own touch to the roles, while still remaining true to the 1991 animated version. And although I was skeptical at first, I can safely say that while Emma Watson is not my first, she has surprisingly proven to be a nice choice for Belle. Emma has what it takes to be both nice and tough, while still being an oddball within her own community. She brings strength, independence, and courage to the role; and these traits are on full display even before her first encounter with the Beast played by Dan Stevens(Downton Abbey). Stevens is the
beneficiary of an extended back-story for the Prince and while most of his scenes as the Beast utilize CGI for the face and head, I found that this effect worked for me because it looked fascinating and the CGI offered the freedom to fulfill the necessary emotions.
     In an Interview with IndieWire Bill Condon stated: (1)
         “It was important to make everything that could be real, real. I’m not a big fan of CG movies. The idea is to feel grounded in a world and not be distracted by things that felt like additions. We used more traditional motion capture puppeteering for the body and the physical orientation of the Beast. He was in a forty-pound gray suit on stilts for much of the film, and then the facial capture was done separately.”
        The actor walked on short rolling stilts on set, all the better to pump him up to a height of seven feet and Stevens’ own voice (which he lowered to better match the Beast) was piped through to the actor via an earpiece.
         “Every week or so, I would go into a facility and have my face sprayed with dots, and then there’d be little cameras capturing everything that I’d done the previous week with my face. Whether it was eating or sleeping or roaring or waltzing, anything that the Beast does with his face was done again.” Said Stevens
          “For a romantic lead, to have a technology that can communicate the subtleties of the human face while falling in love is a big step. All that we needed to capture was a thought that occurs to him. It’s a little moment here, something there, a realization or a revelation. It’s quite amazing to see what it can get through the eyes, which are the last human element in the Beast.”

     While I was not a fan at first that some of the songs (which are iconic) were changed, I did immensely enjoy that 8-time Oscar winner Alan Menken has returned to score the film (as he did in the 1991 version). In addition, he co-wrote new songs with Tim Rice while still keeping some of the original lyrics by Howard Ashman. The music was good and fit with each scene entirely, however after only viewing this movie once it is doubtful that any of the new songs will be instant classics but "Be Our Guest" and “Gaston” are once again definite crowd-pleasers.
    However, the only bad thing I can really say is that it was a missed opportunity to bring new youngsters to the Beauty and the Beast world (those who have yet to see the animation). Of course, the movie was enjoyable and proved that animation to live action adaptations can be done well, it was done at the expense of inviting a new generation to explore the story and characters. It is clear that the target audience is teens and adults who were raised on the 1991 version as the theme seemed to follow a more dark and foreboding path.

     In conclusion, it is an impossible task to please everyone when you mess with the classics, especially Disney ones, and Beauty and the Beast (2017) is a nice twist on a classic. And while the movie seems to target teens and adults, I do believe that young kids will still find this movie to be funny and enjoyable.

“Come into the light!”
- Belle

Final Vote
Worth Seeing:  5 of 5 stars
Worth Buying:  5 of 5 stars

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Movies Similar 
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Alice through the Looking Glass (2016)
Cinderella (2015)
Ella Enchanted (2004)
The Jungle Book (2016)
Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)
Maleficent (2014)
The Princess Bride (1987)
The Wizard of Oz (1939) 

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Bill Condon

Writing Credits:

   (Screenplay by)  Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos.

  (Based on the Tale by) Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont

Produced by 

   Steve Gaub                  ---    co-producer
   Don Hahn                   ---    executive producer
   David Hoberman       ---    producer (produced by)
   Jeremy Johns             ---    co-producer
   Todd Lieberman        ---    producer (produced by)
   Jack Morrissey           ---    co-producer
   Thomas Schumacher         ---    executive producer
   Jeffrey Silver               ---    executive producer
   Greg Yolen                  ---    co-producer
   Alexander Young       ---    co-producer



   Emma Watson --- Belle
   Dan Stevens --- Beast
   Luke Evans --- Gaston
   Josh Gad --- LeFou
   Kevin Kline --- Maurice
   Hattie Morahan --- Agathe / Enchantress
   Haydn Gwynne --- Cothilde
   Gerard Horan --- Jean the Potter
   Ray Fearon --- Père Robert
   Ewan McGregor --- Lumière
   Ian McKellen --- Cogsworth
   Emma Thompson --- Mrs. Potts
   Nathan Mack --- Chip
   Audra McDonald --- Madame Garderobe
   Stanley Tucci --- Maestro Cadenza
   Gugu Mbatha-Raw --- Plumette
   Clive Rowe --- Cuisinier
   Thomas Padden --- Chapeau
   Gizmo --- Froufrou
   Rita Davies --- Old Woman
   D.J. Bailey --- Vagrant
   Adrian Schiller --- Monsieur D'arque
   Harriet Jones --- Queen
   Rudi Goodman --- Young Prince
   Henry Garrett --- King
   Michael Jibson --- Tavern Keeper
   Zoe Rainey --- Belle's Mother
   Daisy Duczmal --- Baby Belle
   Jolyon Coy --- Young Maurice 

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