‘Beauty and the Beast’ enchants its way to a $170 million opening weekend

Category:  The Arts
Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017 at 5:34 PM
‘Beauty and the Beast’ enchants its way to a $170 million opening weekend by Kimberly Firestine

In 1991, Walt Disney Studios released their feature animated film “Beauty and the Beast.” The film’s lifetime gross topped almost $219 million in the United States alone, taking the third spot in the 1991 box office.

Nearly 26 years later, “Beauty and the Beast” is back with a new spin. Disney’s live-action depiction of the same story — starring Emma Watson (Belle), Dan Stevens (Beast) and Luke Evans (Gaston) — is boasting a $170 million opening weekend. The film grabbed seventh place for largest domestic opening ever, jumping ahead of Watson’s previous film “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.”

Following the story introduced in 1991, “Beauty and the Beast” opens with the history of the Beast’s curse. It then follows the same plotline of the original release, with a few new scenes scattered throughout, which pleasantly fill some of the plot holes left by its predecessor.

Thanks to the direction of Bill Condon (“Dreamgirls,” “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn”) and screenplay from Stephen Chbosky (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” “Rent”) and Evan Spiliotopoulos (“Hercules (2014)”), these scenes avoid turning into pointless filler and distraction. The audience gets a look at the death of Belle’s mother and more detail of the curse of Beast, both adding depth to the story that wasn’t there before.

Perhaps one of the more perfectly casted films in recent memory, Watson, Stevens, Evans and company fill their roles so completely that it’s hard to imagine anyone else in them. The minute Watson begins singing in her opening scene, she transforms into the lonely farm girl that is Belle. Watson’s voice rings out through her verses in “Belle, along with its reprise, as if Watson performed musicals on a daily basis. Her portrayal of Belle’s bookish tendencies is perfectly executed, something expected by those who are fans of Watson’s most famed role, Hermione Granger.

Through all the CGI and stop-motion animation that it took to create the monstrous appearance of the Beast, Stevens’ portrayal of the angry and reserved character really hit the nail on the head. We get true, deep emotion from Stevens, even after the curse is lifted and the Beast’s human form is revealed.

While Evans is not as bulky and stupid as the cartoon depiction, his vocal and acting performance truly make him Gaston. A real “man’s man,” Gaston proves to be — once again — no more than a narcissistic, chauvinistic antagonist that we all remember from the animated film.

One of the hotter topics surrounding the film’s release is the sexuality of Gaston’s counterpart LeFou (Josh Gad). In an interview with Attitude Magazine, director Condon revealed LeFou would bring LGBTQ+ inclusion to the Disney main stage.

“He’s confused about what he wants. It’s somebody who’s just realizing that he has these feelings. Josh makes something really subtle and delicious out of it,” Condon said. “That’s what has its payoff at the end, which I don’t want to give away. But it is a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie.”

The news has brought protest and outrage among the more conservative, going as far as theaters refusing to show the film because of the three seconds of non- heteronormativity. Perhaps those sensitive to LGBTQ+ inclusion should just blink at the right time. Besides, LeFou provides the perfect amount of comic relief in the film and that alone should be held as more important than the “is-he-or-isn’t-he” hullabaloo surrounding his sexuality.

The musical numbers in “Beauty and the Beast” are dazzling. Matched with beautiful arrangements, a stunning vocal performance from the entire cast, beautifully designed costumes, and a set straight out of 18th century France, the audience is provided with one of the most visually and musically stunning films as of late.

With the addition of a couple of new tracks to the original 1991 soundtrack, the film’s soundtrack fully compliments the film, adding to the rich history of Disney adaptations. Only slightly disappointing was the absence of Ariana Grande and John Legend’s cover of the title track.

Kimberly Firestine is the arts editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at ae.spectator@gmail.com.

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