Review: Beauty and the Beast, a Tale as Old as Time, Charms Audiences

If you were born in the 1990s, the image of the Disney castle with a shooting star arcing over it is a familiar sight. It signaled two things: a series of memorable tunes and a timeless story. Disney movies spoke to every age and gender in audiences about the importance of family and friends through themes of loss, acceptance and so much more. Nearly 26 years after the Oscar-winning, classic version, “Beauty and the Beast” graced the lives of those same, now grown-up children of the nineties.

“I’m not sure what to expect,” said Eben Knawete, a student at MIT, minutes before the premiere on Friday night. Based on the fact that it recorded the biggest opening ever for a PG title both in North America and abroad, most viewers definitely had high expectations. 

The movie stayed mostly true to the story that we all know: beautiful, well-read Belle (Emma Watson_ stumbles upon a giant hideous jerk Beast (Dan Stevens) and a castle full of talking furniture. Long story short, she falls in love, the Beast turns out to be a hunk and happily ever after ensues.

Although based on an animated children’s film, the remake is at times darker and more violent than the cartoon version (hence the PG, rather than G, rating).

According to Theodora Goss, a senior lecturer in the CAS, who has taught classes on fantasy literature, fairy tales, and the gothic, modern adaptations of “Beauty and the Beast” are based on a version written by Madame de Beaumont published in 1756, whose Beauty is “the perfect eighteenth-century young lady” who has to learn to a lesson to look beyond the ugliness of the Beast.

“Fairy tale scholars trace the story all the way back to the ancient Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche, which was written down in the 2nd century A.D., so the story belongs to a very old family of tales,” Goss said. “It seems we’ve been obsessed for a long time with stories about marriage to a beastly other, and how love can make us see beyond surface appearances.”

Not everyone is looking forward to the remake of the classic but understands the need for Disney to do so. Marc Weinberg, a screenwriting professor in the College of Communication said it was a money-making business.

“I understand why [Disney is] doing it,” he said. “Do I feel it’s necessary? It’s not necessary.”

On the other side of the spectrum, there are fans who have watched these movies while they were growing up and love the actors/actresses starring in the film. One such fan is Reut Odinak, a masters student in Film and Television Studies.

“I’m basically planning on watching it not as a Disney fan but mostly as a fan of Emma Watson [who plays Belle] and Harry Potter and partly because I’ve watched all the Disney movies as a kid and it’ll be fun to watch ‘Beauty and the Beast’ as live-action,” she said. “It also isn’t a remake for the sake of a remake,” she continued. “They are doing something different with it.”

After lights in the theater came back on, moviegoers had just finished revisiting their childhoods and showed their appreciation with applause.

“The animated version was the first movie I ever saw when I was about two years old,” said Caroline Spaeth, a graduate from the Boston area. “So, this is coming full circle for me.”

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

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