BAXTER — It’s a tale as old as time. Beast meets girl, beast loses girl, beast wins girl — wait — what?
Like that old saying about youthful romance and the promise of love eternal — and the opening lyric from the titular song of the Disney animated musical from 1991 — “Beauty and the Beast” is a French fairy tale that resonates with many generations, young and old, men and women.
The live-action remake of “Beauty and the Beast” starring Emma Watson returns to the Lakes 12 Theatre in Baxter, and the fantasy film is truly a sight to behold on the big screen.
The vibrant musical directed by Bill Condon was nominated for an Oscar in the categories of best production and best costume, and the period piece is convincingly brought to life by the cast and crew.
The basic story goes like this: A selfish and cruel prince spurns the offering of a rose by an enchantress — disguised as a beggar — in exchange for shelter. She punishes him for his heartlessness by turning him into a horrendous beast, which can only be undone by true love.
Being a love story — albeit one with dance numbers, memorable songs and lush orchestral arrangements — complications ensue to keep the lovers apart, namely his beastly appearance and disposition, an egotistical rival or would-be suitor, and the mob mentality of the fearful villagers.
The polished and energetic remake not only includes songs from the original film by composer Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman but new material written by Menken and Tim Rice.
Disney fans may not know Ashman by name, but his songs have made an indelible impression if they have ever watched other animated classics such as “The Little Mermaid” and “Aladdin.” Ashman died in 1991 from heart failure caused by HIV/AIDS. He was 40 years old.
Moviegoers may recognize Josh Gad from another hit Disney movie, “Frozen.” He voiced Olaf, the endearing snowman brought to life. The theater veteran plays LeFou in “Beauty and the Beast,” a long-suffering foolish sidekick and butt of many jokes in the 1991 animated movie.
I was fortunate enough to watch a sneak preview of the opening number “Belle” from the 2017 “Beauty and the Beast” when I was vacationing at Walt Disney World. It was part of a special exhibit promoting the then-upcoming movie, and the exhibit featured Belle’s iconic yellow dress.
The sneak peek was so popular that many of the Disney guests watched it several times, marvelling at the costumes and set pieces that stayed true to the source material — yet, the new movie expanded on the backstories of characters they already thought they knew and loved.
Belle is even more fearless and progressive in the live-action remake, and girls may idolize her as a role model when arguably there are so few in the Disney stable; Disney traditionally features women in the damsel-in-distress variety, while Belle is a protagonist ahead of her time.
I was a bit reticent to watch “Beauty and the Beast” at the Lakes 12, having seen it three times already in the theaters — with friends, on a “date night” with my wife, and with my godchild — when it was first released in 2017, including seeing the IMAX version at the Minnesota Zoo.
But within minutes of the stage-setting opening number in which Belle, the ostracized, independent beauty, sings amid the small-minded villagers, it soon became apparent to me the PG-rated movie I watched at the Lakes 12 Theatre was meant to be enjoyed on the big screen.
For those with small children, however, the confrontation between the prince-turned-beast and a pack of computer-generated wolves may be too terrifying. But as with any movie, parents will have to decide whether their children are old enough to watch those kinds of scenes.
The 2017 live-action movie also boasts an A-list of stars as computer-generated supporting characters in the castle, including Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellen, as a gregarious candelabra and worrisome clock, respectively, and Emma Thompson as a mothering teapot.
“Beauty and the Beast,” the live-action movie that was several years in development, continues a recent trend by Walt Disney Pictures to take some of their most beloved — and profitable — properties and remake them with actors in a physical setting instead of relying on animation.
Some other examples of Disney animated classics that have made the transition from children’s fairy tales to more realistic films include “Cinderella,” “Aladdin” and “Mulan.” The latter will soon hit theaters after its original release date was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Previews of upcoming attractions that were also shown with “Beauty and the Beast” at the Lakes 12 Theatre included “Soul,” another Pixar Animation Studios release in the same vein as “Inside Out,” a “Despicable Me” spinoff focusing on Gru’s childhood, and “Mulan.”