When Beauty and the Beast came out in 1991, I was five years old. It’s my favorite Disney animated movie, and Belle has been my favorite Disney princess for basically my whole life. About two years ago, when I heard that Disney was making a live action version, I was both excited and nervous. It was extremely important to me that it do justice to the original, even if it could never quite measure up to it.
I saw the new Beauty and the Beast on March 6th, eleven days before its official release, at a special screening at the TCL Chinese Theater IMAX in Hollywood. My expectations were high, but I was still completely blown away by how good it was. All of the worries I had were completely unfounded. The movie is as close to perfect as I could have ever hoped for. I teared up throughout the movie, not because it was sad, but because I was so happy about how amazing and beautiful it was. It did justice to the original, and then some.
I’m going to make a bold statement here. I’m pretty sure I liked it more than the original. I need to watch both the animated and the new version again to make sure, but that was the impression I had at the end.
At two hours and nine minutes, the live action version is forty-five minutes longer than the original. That might sound like a lot, but I didn’t notice the length at all. Every scene was completely engrossing. At no point did I feel like it dragged. The added time is for additional scenes and songs that only improve upon what was already there, giving it more depth and emotional resonance.
I could not be more pleased with the cast. Literally everyone was perfect. Belle was the most crucial role, the one I was the most concerned about, and Emma Watson captured her spirit beautifully. It’s obvious that she really understands the character and put her whole heart into playing her. I could go through the whole main cast list and rave about everyone, but that would make this review much too long.
Every aspect of Beauty and the Beast is impressive. Script, music, acting, sets, costumes, effects, etc. are all breathtaking. It’s a gorgeous movie. I left the theater wishing I could go right back in and watch it again. I’m counting down the days until my second viewing!
That’s the end of my review, but since I saw the movie early, I want to add something at the end here about LeFou for the sake of those who haven’t seen the movie yet and have concerns about the “gay moment.” I’m not going to spoil anything that can’t be guessed from the information that’s already out there, but if you want to avoid any hints at all about LeFou, don’t read on to the next paragraph.
Some people are worried that the movie is going to have content that they consider inappropriate for children, that there will be a whole subplot about LeFou’s sexuality that distracts from the main plot, or that LeFou will have a love story that takes time and attention away from the central love story. Others are insulted that the first gay character in a Disney movie is an awkward, incompetent, evil character. Let me put those fears to rest.
As can be easily predicted without seeing the movie, LeFou is not the same as in the original. In the animated version, he’s basically a prop – a punching bag for Gaston who helps provide exposition. That just wouldn’t translate well in a live action movie. The filmmakers took the opportunity to rethink LeFou and give his character more depth. He is now a more interesting character with an emotional arc, and it’s not dependent on his sexuality. If you’re afraid that Disney’s first gay character will be treated like a joke or imply that gay people are evil, you have no reason to worry.
LeFou’s feelings for Gaston are presented with subtlety that a child wouldn’t pick up on. There is one brief line of dialogue that references it, but even that could easily be interpreted as referring to a friendship. As promised by the media, there is one “exclusively gay” moment, but it lasts two seconds and is very mild. I don’t want to spell it out because that would be a spoiler, but there’s no kissing. It’s just about the most gentle way that they could possibly have handled it. Obviously it’s up to each individual to decide if any representation of a gay character will keep them from watching a movie. But if you’re on the fence, just know that references to LeFou’s sexuality are brief and subtle.