After literally years of waiting and anticipating and preparing, my family and I were excited to finally get to see the live action Beauty and the Beast film.
My daughter was beyond excited and had high expectations. My husband was far more skeptical. Looking at them side by side as the film began, I was a little worried, but I needn't have been. Our family review of Beauty and the Beast is all thumbs up. We all enjoyed the film.
The live action movie hits the very sweet spot of staying true to the original animated film while also delving a bit deeper into the characters and offering additional insight through new scenes and songs.
It didn't feel like a remake to us, for several reasons.
It felt like seeing old friends but learning more about them. Peeks into their pasts help the viewers understand why they behave they way they do. We get information about Belle, the Beast, and Gaston that we didn't have before now, as well as a bit more insight into why the Beast's servants are so very loyal to him.
As a parent, I love that my teen daughter is old enough to really appreciate the motivations behind the character's actions and delve deeper into the story.
New songs were fun additions that fit in well but kept it feeling fresh. The amazing six-time Tony-winning Audra McDonald as Madame de Garderobe did not disappoint. Also, Dan Stevens can sing. Not like Audra McDonald, but that's probably for the best. Apparently he also danced on stilts for the famous dancing scene to "Beauty and the Beast." (So really, there's probably nothing that he can't do. This is not shocking.)
Going in, we knew that the cast was amazing. They did not disappoint. While all were really good, there were a few performances that really stood out for us. My husband has always enjoyed Kevin Kline ad felt that he does a wonderful job as Belle's father, Maurice. I got chills when he tells Belle, "Fearless. Your mother was fearless."
And both Gaston (Luke Evans) and Lefou (Josh Gad) were fantastic. Gad as Lefou had me in stitches on several occasions and cheering on some others. I know he's Gaston's sidekick, but in this movie he felt like so much more and much of that is due to Gad's fantastic portrayal.
The film is also a visual feast. The costumes are fantastic, as is the setting. There was one scene of Belle in the hills that felt very Sound of Music to me, and maybe a little odd that way. The castle, though, is remarkable. Over 8,700 candles (or 104,400 inches of wax) were used as set decoration during production. A production crew of more than 1,000 people worked around the clock to design, build and decorate the film’s mammoth sets, and you can tell.
There's a lot to discuss in the live action Beauty and the Beast with older kids.
The theme of kindness runs throughout, and I appreciated that there were some weighty pauses as characters weighed what to do. Choosing kindness isn't always easy, and I think the acknowledgment of that in this film is something worth talking about with kids. How does the ability to empathize change the course of the plot?
This provincial village is in desperate need of someone like Malala to school them on the importance of educating girls. The differences in how Lumiere and Gaston view Belle's strength is worth exploring. Also, the role of fear and what to do with it is front and center. And see what kids think about this cast, which is far more diverse than in the animated film.
See how your your kids feel about Emma Watson emphatic declaration "I'm not a princess!" Do they agree that Belle is different? How?
If you're looking for more conversation starters, pay attention to Mrs. Potts, played by the incomparable Emma Thompson. At one point she says, "People say a lot of things in anger. It is our choice whether to listen." (Or something to that effect, as in theaters they don't let you pause or rewind.) She also talks about when she and her fellow servants did nothing. Both of these are good jumping off points with your kids.
Finally, there was much discussion a few weeks ago about Lefou's sexuality. There director referenced a "gay moment" in an interview before the release of the film. If you're not aware and not looking for it, you're likely to miss it. My teen did. (Spoiler alert: there are some looks, a few lines and the biggest thing is that for a brief moment Lefou dances with a man at the end and looks happy.)
When we talked about it later, she was confused about why it mattered. She said that there were more interesting things about Lefou. In our house, it actually transitioned into a conversation about how attitudes and perspectives have changed over time and that "Love is love is love," to quote Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Even my skeptical husband gave the film a thumbs up, although he may not rush out to see it again like I suspect my teen will. Have you seen it? What did you think?
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Filed under: Pop Culture