Review: Disney's big gamble on 'Beauty and the Beast' pays off

Posted Friday, June 2, 2017 at 12:13 PM Central
Last updated Friday, June 2, 2017 at 2:01 PM Central

by John Couture

If you had asked me at the beginning of the year which film would be the highest grossing film in 2017, I would have said The Last Jedi. In fact, I did. The year is far from over and I'm still convinced that the latest Star Wars film will top the year's box office list when all is said and done, but if you had asked me for the top film halfway through the year, I would have said Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

With Guardians 2 well on its way to my guess of $375 million, it's still no match for the phenomenon that is Beauty and the Beast. No one predicted that it would surpass $500 million and I'm sure even Disney is surprised by its success, but the film is worthy of its praise and massive box office haul.

While the wife and I were anticipating the live-action adaptation, we were shocked that our kids were as excited as we were to see it. Sure, they enjoyed the original Disney animated version (who wouldn't? It's a classic), but to expect that a three-year-old and a five-year-old would want to sit through a live-action musical is asking a bit much.

But they were on board and even sang along to the film for the songs that they knew from the cartoon. What was interesting was seeing the wonder on their face when they experienced a song or sequence that wasn't a part of the original Disney classic. The sheer joy that they expressed is one that never fails to warm a parent's heart.

I really didn't know what to expect when we found our seats and the lights dimmed. I mean, Beauty and the Beast is such an iconic animated film that I was a bit concerned that it wouldn't translate well into live action. I mean, I love Emma Watson as much as the next guy, but would she be able to give the iconic Belle the toughness and vulnerability that she demands?

Also, would the CGI version of the Beast and his fellow cursed residents of his castle be believable sharing the screen with live actors?

I can tell you that without a doubt, the answer is a resounding yes.

I had never seen the Broadway musical, but it didn't dawn on me until about halfway through the film that I bet they pulled many of the new scenes and songs from the live-action musical. I still don't know if this is the case, but I wouldn't be surprised at all. The new scenes and songs add so much to the story that Beauty and the Beast truly is its own unique experience from the animated film.

So, when I brought up the Blu-ray this week, I was curious if my kids would still be into it or if they would be over it now that they had seen it in theaters. The excitement in their eyes and the demand to watch it immediately gave me the only answer that I would need.

Interestingly, not only did the kids want to watch the film again, but they wanted to see all of the bonus features. As anyone with young kids will tell you, getting them to sit through bonus features is next to impossible, so the fact that they asked to see them demonstrates just how amazing this film is and how it translates to a younger audience.

In true Disney fashion, the Beauty and the Beast Blu-ray is packed with a ton of goodies including deleted scenes, featurettes and an extended table read. As a film buff, I really enjoyed the table read with the cast. To see them all gathered for the first reading of the script is a moment that truly captures the excitement in the cast that you eventually see translated onto the screen in the final film.

The bonus features truly add to the experience of the film and little things like including Celine Dion help to connect the older film and this one. When it's all said and done, I am always very hesitant when it comes to remaking films, let alone turning animated films into live-action ones, but there's something magical about Beauty and the Beast.

It truly is a "tale as old as time" and while the new film will resonate with younger audiences in a different way than those of us who grew up with the original Disney film, both audiences will love it.