Do you remember the 90’s? It seems like all the best music and movies came from this exact time period. Anyone who was around during that time can remember Disney’s dominance on the animated movie scene. Those very large VHS tapes in their equally large and extremely detailed cases were a collectors’ piece for every household. In those days, Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise directed an animated masterpiece in “Beauty and the Beast” that would go on to win hearts around the world and awards to go with it. Back when children were introduced to the voice Angela Landsbury as Mrs. Potts, if they didn’t already recognize her from “Murder She Wrote.” But as I opened initially, that was the 90’s and all of its innocence. It’s now 2017 and the ‘house of mouse’ (Disney) is determined to remake every classic we’ve ever known into a live-action film.
In its most basic form, Bill Condon has literally brought the original story to life thanks to live actors and a handful of CGI. It’s the original story that we’re all familiar with: A young girl in a tiny village is different from everyone else, her refusing to conform leads her to be an outcast, her father gets lost, she goes to find him, discovers a magical castle with a beast inside, I think you know the rest. But I’m going to let you in on a little secret, because there’s a few things you haven’t and won’t see on TV about this movie.
Finding information online before seeing it on TV has now become commonplace, it’s the type of normalcy that delineates between generations. Now if you go onto Google and simply type in “Beauty and the Beast Movie 2017”, you will discover a lot of “Disney’s First-Ever ___.” Oh yes, because the house of mouse has become an agenda pushing factory as of late, but this time, they were very much in the open about it.
Everyone knows Gaston is a self-absorbed prick, but Luke Evans is very likable, and did a very good job in his role (I struggle to call him ‘Luke’ instead of ‘Bard’ because I love “The Hobbit” so much). But it’s the side story they try to push with Le Fou (Josh Gad), his noble sidekick and confidant that’s gone undetected. There are two moments where the storyline breaks from the original and goes off into agenda mode. It slides in after everyone enjoys, “Nooooo oooooone fights like Gaston!” and Le Fou finds himself smitten by his presence and considers kissing him. Random? Quite. The second comes towards the end of the movie where three musketeer-like figures take on an armed armoire in the Beast’s castle. They were defeated once the armoire changed their clothes and dressed them more feminine, but it was the black musketeer who appeared to adore his new dressing and waltzed away (but if I get started on the feminization of black men, we might be here until the next election cycle). After the day is saved, everyone dances in the castle and Le Fou finds himself face-to-face in the gaze of that very same black musketeer.
So that’s one headline that has dominated the online-sphere, the next would be the interracial component, which I find hilarious because of the outcry after that infamous Cheerios commercial that ran during the Super Bowl a few years ago. It was nice to see a diverse set of extras in imaginary France (with very few French accents) and Disney was not afraid to pick up where Cheerios left off. Once the inevitable occurs and everyone in the castle turns back into humans, Stanley Tucci and Ewan McGregor run to their love interests Audra McDonald and Gugu Mbatha-Raw respectively. A few accounts have noted this is the first interracial kiss in Disney live-action film, but again, to me, I saw the chick from Belle (from the 2013 movie “Belle”, Gugu) kiss the guy from Blackhawk Down (Ewan McGregor) and that was that. See how things change with perspective? So those are a few things some of you may have missed. You can open your eyes now helicopter parents, we can get back to innocent things again.
That is, after I express my disappointment in casting, because Emma Watson as Belle just didn’t do it for me. Again, Luke Evans as Gaston was perfect, Josh Gad even resembled Le Fou with his cadence and tone, I even liked Kevin Kline as Maurice, but Emma Watson? She may have been born in Paris, but she sounds British, as does Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts. Her singing could be described as nothing more than ‘average’ and to make matters worse, in an imaginary world set in a real country like France with British accents afloat, hearing her continuous attempts at “Pa-pah!” irked my soul to its limit.
Beauty and the Beast feels more like a musical than an actual movie. But I have to say, the scenery, the design of the village and castle, and the castle’s interior are amazing. It’s still a nice love story and all of the things I mentioned are things that you and I as adults will notice. The overall message of ‘not judging a book by its cover’ and to show ‘kindness and compassion’ are still delivered, just not in the same animated way that we’re used to.
Beauty and the Beast gets a 7 out of 10 from me. Also, I’d like to note that there’s nothing scary about this remake for children (unlike the outcry that came from “Maleficent”). The singing could’ve been better and the casting could definitely use a boost, but the film overall is ok. As a twist, when the villagers raid the castle, I would’ve had Cogsworth (Ian McKellen) approach the mob with a “You shall not pass!”