La Belle et la Bete has all the whimsical magic and fantasy of a captivating fairy tale but with the humanity of a feature adaptation.

There is just something about these fables that have the ability to touch the audience’s heart. La Belle et la Bete (Beauty and the Beast) brings the French fairy tale to life in an equally as wondrous but more realistic manner than the Disney classic.

American audiences will recognize the story without confusion as only minor changes are made with Christophe Gans‘s adaptation. A once prestigious and wealthy sea merchant (André Dussollier) is left disgraced and penniless when his three cargo ships go missing. With everything confiscated by the banks to compensate for his debts, the newly destitute family retreats to the provincial countryside. The merchant and father becomes lost when returning from a trip to the city. Seeking refuge, he finds shelter in a mysterious but magical castle. Overstepping the castle’s generosity, the father must trade une vie pour une rose, a life for a rose.

The French film La Belle et la Bete is what I had so desperately desired but failed to receive from Disney’s Maleficent. Though it does not attempt to reinvent the tale from an alternative perspective, La Belle et la Bete does give audiences a refreshingly real story rather than a romanticized but far fetched fable.

In every scene and with every single frame, director Christophe Gans captures the magical and otherworldly awe inherent in a fairy tale. The castle’s fortress is a maze of crumbling corridors and overgrown staircases that we explore with Belle during the day.  From the set design and landscapes to the opulent costumes and cinematography, La Belle et la Bete transports its audiences to a magnificent and enchanting fantasy land.

In almost all regards, La Belle et la Bete is an overwhelming success but there are weaknesses in the narrative. The writers and director do not take the added time to truly cultivate a love story between Belle (Léa Seydoux) and la Bete (Vincent Cassel). For a film that claims its genre to be romance, this is rather a large component and therefore complaint. Further the introduction of the Gaston character and eventual climax at the castle feels rushed and slightly out of place.

La Belle et la Bete is a spectacular cinematic experience that should be voraciously devoured by lovers of the fantastical, especially children. (Though there is nudity, it is minimal, tasteful, unavoidable and completely nonsexual.)