My Younger Son and I went to see Beauty and the Beast last night. The production itself was spectacular and the acting was wonderful. I really enjoyed it… and my Younger Son was indifferent, which is perhaps high praise from a male teenager for a princess-type movie!
I should mention that I was older than the intended audience when the 1991 animated film came out and did not have kids yet — and later having sons, I tended to watch The Lion King, Aladdin, and Cars. So, while I had probably seen the animated film — and even the stage play with my niece — it was not like the live action film had to live up to one of my favourite animated classics.
I had liked Emma Watson in the Harry Potter films, so I really wanted to see what she could do as an adult in a musical. She was a very convincing Belle, portraying intelligence and understated grace and beauty. And while she is obviously not a trained singer, she put the songs over to the audience in the spirit in which they were intended. She has described her training for the role as a “boot camp” of sorts, taking lessons in singing, horseback riding, and waltzing. I did find myself wanting to mess up her hair to see Hermione, though, when she was going up and down the stairs in the dark castle that sometimes reminded me of Hogwarts!
Dan Stevens as Beast was all brooding anger and surprised tenderness — I liked him in Downton Abbey and this is certainly a different role and a different look, both as Beast (in a 40 pound muscle suit and on steel stilts) and as the handsome prince. Apparently, every scene was acted once for the body movements and then again in a “Tron cage”, as he called it, to map his facial expressions onto the Beast face.
Kevin Kline was just the right combination of bumbling old man and caring parent as Belle’s father. I thought the stand-out performances were Luke Evans as Gaston (what a voice!) and Josh Gad as LeFou (so funny! reminded me of Jack Black). Their song and dance in the bar was lively and funny — people around me were laughing out loud and clapped at the end of the scene! I was surprised at the uproar in some states and countries about the “gay” scene… blink once and you would miss it.
The everyday objects who are live characters in the castle were quite wonderfully brought to life, and there was quite a process to make that happen and to get them look just right, as this article in Quartz describes. Some well-known actors played these roles and so perfectly, such as Ian McKellen as Cogsworth (the clock), Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts (the teapot), Ewan McGregor as Lumière (the candelabra/candlestick), and Stanley Tucci as Maestro Cadenza (the harpsichord).
Not only did the movie have beautiful costumes and sets, but it managed to be exciting and suspenseful and even tragic towards the end… you knew how it would turn out, and yet what if it didn’t! My Younger Son thought the best part was when the arrogant and self-serving Gaston finally got his just desserts. Mine would be when the Beast and his loyal servants were finally saved.
A very nice way to spend an evening… although I think I would have liked it better without the 3D glasses! For an alternate viewpoint from someone who loved the 1991 animated film, you may want to visit Judiang.