Belle is an absolutely stunning film with a unique and beautiful story take on Beauty and the Beast, with some really heavy themes.
Fans of Beauty and the Beast will instantly recognize that Belle took heavy inspiration from the tale as old as time, however, the parts of the story that it changes make it unique, as it dives into some very heavy topics. The animation is absolutely stunning, and gorgeous to look at. The story told is heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. This is not exactly the Beauty and the Beast you might recall, it is so much more.
Everyone knows the story of Beauty and the Beast. A young woman named Belle is a bit quirky according to the rest of the townsfolk. She eventually finds herself in the company of the Beast, trapped as a prisoner in his castle. Come to find out the Beast has been given this form because of his selfishness, and the only way to break the curse is to have someone fall in love with him, despite his looks, by the time the last pedal falls from an enchanted rose.
Warning: Minor Spoilers Ahead For Belle
Belle bases itself loosely on this story, but switches things up, making it extremely unique. It is unafraid to dive into heavy themes, like child abuse and death, while also modernizing the story to include the internet and technology. In this world there is an online space called U. Here you can step away from the stress of your real life and get a second chance.
Teenage Suzu has been unable to sing since her mother died tragically when she was a little a girl. In U she finds the courage to sing again, but with it brings attention she doesn’t really want. As everything goes with the online community, there are a lot of haters, who poke at her weird look and the words of her songs. Her best friend Hiroka tries to teach her that there will always be haters, a lesson we all know too well in the real world.
Another member of U who is getting a lot of attention is the Beast. He has the form of a creature, a beast, and spends the majority of his online time in fights, which he almost always wins. His back is also covered in bruises, and no one can figure out why.
We learn early on that the technology takes the biometrics of the users when creating their online persona, so when Suzu falls and gets a bump on her head, Bell, her online persona gets hurt there as well. This is so that no user can have two U personas.
In order to remain mostly spoiler free, I will not go into heavy detail as to what happens next. But this is a story about Belle and the Beast, and how they help one another out. Suzu is a kind hearted and shy young girl, who only enjoys U because it allows her to sing like she used to, before her mother died.
Belle is split pretty evenly between the real world and world of U. Each one has their own plot line filled with drama, but the interconnect as the movie goes on. There are several side characters who are friends of Suzu’s, and they each have their moments in the film. Ruka, the prettiest girl in school, is one of my favorites of these characters, especially toward the end when she confides in Suzu how self-conscious she is.
There are a lot of lessons in this movie that are important for young children, but also for adults to learn. Not just about confidence, or looking at who someone is on the inside before judging them, but also about friendship, responsibility, and standing up for others who cannot stand up for themselves. The story is magical, musical, and beautiful. It is certainly hard to watch at times, one scene comes to mind in particular, but it is an important watch.
Is it okay for young kids to watch? I say for the most part, yes. This is certainly not a bright and cheery story, not by any means. It is deep and heavy, and there are times where really little ones could get bored. The only fault here is that it does go on a bit long, clocking in at exactly 2 hours. There is a lot of talking in between the action, especially in the middle. My 9 year old was a bit antsy at these parts, but my 10 year old was sucked in from the start, and on the edge of her seat throughout the whole film. She even shed a few tears as the story wrapped up, and who can blame her, I did too.
Belle is easily one of the best animated films that has been released in a while. The animation is very detailed, and there is a clear difference of color used when in the real world versus the U world. This is an easy way to distinguish the fantasy from the reality. While there is certainly a lot more to dive into here, doing so could ruin the movie. Just know there are a lot of heavy topics, and although they are important, get ready to have deep conversations with your children when the movie ends.
This take on Beauty and the Beast is modernized for the world today and tackles much deeper themes than not judging a book by its cover. This a risk the studio takes, and the reward is a stunning story filled with heart, love, and sacrifice for the greater good. The stunning animation and heartfelt story makes this a joy to watch.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
A high school student becomes a globally beloved singer after entering a fantastic virtual world. She soon embarks on an emotional and epic quest to uncover the identity of a mysterious beast who’s on the run from ruthless vigilantes.
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Tessa Smith is a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved Film and TV Critic. She is also a Freelance Writer. Tessa has been in the Entertainment writing business for almost ten years and is a member of several Critics Associations including the Hollywood Critics Association and the Greater Western New York Film Critics Association.