By Lauren Linhard –

The long-awaited “Beauty and the Beast” live-action film finally hit theaters this past weekend and 90’s kids everywhere are breathing a sigh of relief into jumbo buckets of popcorn. Not only was this musical as good as the animated original, but it expanded the feminist premises established in its 1991 counterpart regarding the traditional princess perception.

This modernized Belle, played by feminist advocate Emma Watson, is a ingenuitive, outspoken, book-loving young woman who is seeking more in life, even if she is not quite sure what it is. The type of girl to tuck in her skirts and rock a pair of traveling pants, she never thinks twice when it comes to her priorities – knowledge, family and love.

As the story goes, this strong-willed young woman sprints to her father’s aid and frees him from the clutches of a terrible beast by sacrificing her freedom in trade. Her escape plans are delayed however, when she discovers the beast (Dan Stevens) and castle are cursed along with the inhabitants inside.

Not only are these once inanimate objects living, breathing and talking – but they used to be humans who worked for the prince, who is now confined to his beastly form until he learns to love and be loved in return.

During an escape attempt, Belle is suddenly thrown into damsel in distress mode when wolves attack in the dark forest. Out of the mist and snow, Beast appears and saves Belle’s life. In this moment the beauty and the beast recognize the potential in each others’ hearts. Instead of leaving the beast to the wolves, Belle helps him back to the castle and nurses his wounds.

A curious love begins to blossom between the two based on mutual trust, open conversation and emotional understanding until the angered townsfolk take to the streets, led by hot-headed Gaston (Luke Evans), to kill Beast.

While the plot will not be new to Disney lovers, fans will get to enjoy the added bonus of scenes inspired by the fairytale book, providing a fuller history for both Beast and Belle, in addition to
the dazzling musical scenes inspired by the original movie.

Rest assured love wins out, as does the moral that women can be strong and opinionated and driven and adventurous and everything they want to be in life without fear of being forced to settle for less. Together, Beast and Belle teach us what’s really important in a relationship (empathy and understanding!) and to never judge a book by its cover – literally or figuratively.