Verdict: Beauty and the Beast 2017 took my breath away and stole my heart; I fell in love all over again with this fairy tale.
Spoilers ahead ---
Let's talk about one of the most important scenes - no, not the ballroom one, the one where the Beast first shows Belle the library, duh. To be fair, the original, legendary library scene is hard to live up to - all light and color and books as far as the eye can see. While the library in this one still left me salivating, it cannot compare to the the original. The 2017 version is dark and dungeon-y, the books like dismal shadows in the background. What does a library need? Light, of course, to read by.
Dan Stevens' Beast is a reader too! The sexiest scene by far was when Belle finds him reading in the garden by himself. Hot dudes reading, indeed. This Beast surpasses the original in that he and Belle have so much more in common. Although he was 99% CGI, there was enough depth and humanity in his features, especially his eyes, that it was easy to see how Belle could fall in love with him. Was I sobbing when you could see his heart breaking as he lets Belle go? Having foolishly not brought tissues with me, I had to dab my face with my scarf.
And yes, like the original, the human prince is somewhat of a letdown, as handsome as Dan Stevens is. "How do you feel about growing a beard?" she asks him playfully in the end (no kidding!)
No one could have played strong, independent, intelligent, adventure-yearning, and kind bookworm Belle BUT Emma Watson.
THE MUSIC (I wrote this review before I had seen the movie and as I suspected, all my quibbles with faded in the face of the stunning visuals.)
What I most hoped they'd get right out of all the songs is the most important one, Beauty and the Beast. Unfortunately, even with Emma Thompson (who most certainly can sing) and all the musical wizardry at Disney's disposal, this beautiful song emerged quite a bit scarred. To understand why, one must go back to the original sung by Angela Lansbury. The song itself is a wondrous wedding of tune and lyrics. But Lansbury sang it simply - she let the music and the words shine. It was understated. But Thompson (and I don't know if she was directed to do so) sings it like Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. Too much! And then with the harpsichord crashing the party... If Thompson could have sung it with less Cockney and they got rid of the extra musical stylings then they would have had a worthy version. As it is ... perhaps it will come off better during the movie.
As for the new songs, I had hoped they'd include Human Again (cut from the original film but resurrected in the Broadway version) which is a wonderful MGM-style number. Instead they used a winsome song, "Days in the Sun," which I am slowly falling in love with. It's a lovely tune that lingers long after the last note. Evermore is the new "If I Can't Love Her," a much-needed solo from the Beast's point of view.
I'm hoping that someday Disney will come out will a surprise version of "Me" sung by Luke Evans (PLEASE!!! ) Evans and Gad somehow made "Gaston" even better and I keep laughing every time I listen to this song. Audra McDonald is phenomenal.
Unlike others, I thought Emma Watson's singing was fine - not horrible. I liked her phrasing and interpretation of lyrics. Dan Stevens's singing I think must have been computer enhanced to sound deeper and beastlier?
All I will say is that when the little ottoman suddenly froze and landed upside down, never to move again, I just lost it. My poor scarf will never be the same again.
Lastly, but not leastly, I thoroughly applaud Disney's trend of having a diverse cast in what were originally all-white stories. How refreshing and amazing to see people of color in such big, destined-to-be classic movies!
As for the exclusively gay scene causing such controversy - I only wish it had been longer and more apparent. It was a blink-and-you-miss-it moment.
P.S. FINAL LAMENT
They didn't use my favorite line from the original about architectural styles. :(