Dan Stevens Emma Watson Luke Evans Josh Gad Ewan McGregor Ian McKellan
Gugu Mbitha-Raw Emma Thompson Stanley Tucci Kevin Kline Audra McDonald
Be prepared for a brilliant production design (Sarah Greenwood) with graphics that resemble a kaleidoscope with spinning colors and other inventive animations and special effects. The beloved story is updated, and the visual display enhances what is already there. Making it a musical (music by Alan Menken) is an added bonus in entertainment. The traditional songs are kept and additional ones are added.
The story of a young woman in a provincial village wanting desperately to escape it and fulfill her dreams of being someone in the larger world is not unusual. What is unusual for the time of this rendition is that Belle (Watson) rejects the idea of simply getting married and having children. She has a clever mind and is considered odd by the villagers for her bookishness in an age when most of them do not know how to read—at least not the females.
The town narcissist, Gaston (Evans), however, has decided that Belle is the one for him, and despite her rejections of him—which he sees simply as playing hard-to-get—tries his best to win her over. He ignores her pleas and dismisses what she has to say, just as he does his sidekick’s (Gad) advice to back off. He does not give up and repeatedly tries to win her (like a prize), even attempting to come between her and her father.
Maurice is an artist and leaves home one day for Paris, where he hopes to sell something he’s made. Along the way, he is stranded in a strange part of the country, where he is unaware that the castle where he is seeking shelter has been cursed. He unwittingly angers the owner and is promptly put in a cell. This owner is an ugly beast (Stevens), and thus his path crosses with Maurice’s and that of Belle when she comes to rescue him.
A delightful part of this film is the nature of the curse that has been put on it by a sorcerer who was denied shelter by the prince. Not only is the prince cursed, but his staff members are turned into living household items. The butler Lumiere (McGregor) becomes a candelabra, the timekeeper (McKellan) becomes a clock, the musician Cadenza (Tucci) becomes a harpsichord, the opera singer Garderobe (McDonald) becomes a wardrobe, the butler’s wife Plumette (Mbitha-Raw) becomes a decorative feather duster resembling a swan, his cook Mrs. Potts (Thompson) becomes a teakettle with a son turned into a teacup. These characters are delightful to watch in animation, all having magical powers they can use to defend their master. They all look forward to the time when the curse is lifted and they can go back to their normal human lives. The filmmakers do an enchanting job in depicting them at work, which becomes a swirl of ravishing color and flying objects.
Director Bill Condon has pulled together all the artists creating the film into a breathtaking whole, synthesizing visual, musical, cinematographic, special effects, and acting skills, resulting in a beautiful, entrancing film. Additionally, I was appreciative of its take-away messages of “Forgive first impressions” and “Find it in your mind’s eye and feel it in your heart” as simple but powerful for the younger viewing audience. The superb cast led by Emma Watson and Dan Stevens enliven the production, contributing to its depth and quality.
A visual, aural, and dramatic delight, which makes it an enchanting film for kids.