By Emma Johnson-Ferguson
The much-anticipated Beauty and the Beast burst onto our screens this March with Hermione, Matthew Crawley and Olaf battling it out for the most unforgettable song (seriously why am I still humming about the ‘baker with his tray like always’?). Opening on an idyllic caricature of a French village, Belle sings about the struggles of living in a town where no one understands her spirit and expresses her belief that she deserves more. Naturally, the gorgeous but arrogant Gaston finds this hugely attractive and pursues her to the point of embarrassing rejection; it appears Belle being too good for Villeneuve also makes her unattainable for the only semi-decent bachelor in town. Then again, he is extraordinarily vain, so we suppose we should commend Belle for rejecting her only apparent option and thus dooming herself to the fate of token town spinster.
As a Disney heroine constrained by people too simple to understand her, it takes less than fifteen minutes to reveal her Prince Charming, who’ll give her the better life she requires. After inviting himself inside an obviously imposing castle, Maurice, Belle’s scatter-brained inventor of a father, helps himself to food and drink before fleeing at Chip’s introduction. One would think that someone who designs intricate musical boxes would be impressed by a teacup that could engage in light banter, but this is enough to chase Maurice from the castle. That is, of course, until he finds white roses, who have found a way to bloom amongst the darkness and snow that blanket the garden (is that how horticulture works? I guess Jack’s beanstalk set the standards for realistic plant life pretty low). Having already proven himself morally comfortable with helping himself, Maurice proceeds to pick a rose, before falling to the ground in fear of the Beast, who finally enters in all his terrifying (but weirdly attractive?) glory.
From here onwards, Belle’s story is almost identical to the original. The love story continues as planned, with the human Belle and the beastly Beast bonding over their interest in literature. (Belle’s claim that Romeo and Juliet is her ‘favourite Shakespearian play’ seems a little exaggerated here, since the library at Villeneuve had about ten books in; why don’t you save lies about reading the author’s other works for the university students?) Later on, Emma Watson proves she can dance and looks good in yellow, whilst Dan Stevens emits a rumbling rendition of ‘Evermore’ that could soothe a snoozing puppy. Gaston and Le Fou sing their renowned melody that, whilst hilariously choreographed, has words almost impossible to distinguish (luckily every fourth word or so is ‘Gaston’ so singing along is pretty simple) and Emma Thompson proves that ‘Beauty and the Beast’ actually does work when sung by a teapot with a vague, motherly accent.
Overall a fun movie, Beauty and the Beast is easy to enjoy and even easier for the cynics among us to poke fun at. Yet I suppose at the end of the day it is a Disney movie – it’s too late to change the plot holes in a tale as old as time.
Image: Walt Disney Studios