I’ve always loved to read, so naturally, Belle from Beauty and the Beast was one of my biggest childhood role models. I admired her kindness and her inquisitive side so much that, as a kid, I refused to change out of my Belle tutu to leave the house.
When I heard that Disney chose to revive the beloved 1991 movie and Broadway play, I doubted the new film would live up to my expectations—the original was just too good. I showed up to the movie theater entirely skeptical. I mainly wondered: would Emma Watson play Belle well, or would her previous role of Hermione Granger in Harry Potter corrupt her acting and change my interpretation of the wonderful Disney heroine?
After the first scene, I was hooked. The movie opened in the bustling, cobblestoned village center of Villeneuve, where the audience first meets Belle, maneuvering between women doing laundry and men bartering for bread as she performs her everyday errands. The scene embodied the liveliness and flashiness of Broadway while maintaining the childlike wonder and spirit of a Disney movie.
The charming set mixed with the electric choreography and the lively song made the scene feel as though it wasn’t a musical or a movie, but rather an everyday ordeal that one could witness in any French town as the realistic set and actors made the performance seem so effortless.
My favorite song in the movie was “Evermore,” written by Tim Rice and composed by Alan Menken. The song begins just after the Beast releases Belle, as he trolls the castle the castle in despair, assuming he will never get to marry Belle, the love of his life. Dan Stevens, who plays the Beast, sings impeccably, especially considering that he hadn’t sung since he was much younger when he was at school and had to retrain his voice for the role. The despair and regret that complement the composition of the song make “Evermore” a true standout.
“Be Our Guest,” my favorite scene from the original movie, fell short of my expectations. Although I’ve always loved the cutlery’s grand welcome to Belle and the comedic commentary from Lumiere, the candelabra, the remake feels a bit dizzying with constant movement. The original scene maintained a perfect balance between the cutlery, Belle, and the food, but the revival struggles because of the visually chaotic combination of a live action set and the animated feature of dancing cutlery.
Surprisingly, the movie indirectly addressed many contemporary social issues. When Beauty and the Beast came out in 1991, most Disney princess movies featured predominantly white men and women and protagonists with little substance. The 1991 film took a major step forward when it introduced Belle, a female intellectual whose primary goal in life didn’t involve men or marriage. Watson, an internationally active feminist herself, does an outstanding job portraying Belle’s feminist qualities and bringing her own values to the character. An example of this was Watson’s costume for the snowball fight, created solely from sustainable fabrics—a testament to her interest in sustainability and fair trade.
With the revival, I was interested to see how the directors were going to diversify an originally homogeneous cast. Impressively, the movie featured diversity in race, relationships, and sexual orientation. Most of the couples, such as servants Madame Gardrobe and Maestro Cadenza, are interracial. After Madame Gardrobe dresses one of the Three Musketeers, he decides he prefers dressing as a girl.
The most prominent example of the film’s portrayal of non-traditional couples appeared when LeFou, Gaston’s right-hand man, gets his chance at love with one of the male henchmen in the final scene.
Ultimately, this movie has it all: a beautiful set, amazing actors, and poignant songs. After 26 years, this story still hits the mark. So stand in the obscenely long lines at the movie theater because Beauty and the Beast is worth the wait!