Mar-24-2017

Reel Snippet – Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Summary: Belle (Emma Watson) lives with her father Maurice (Kevin Kline) in a quiet town where she doesn’t fit in and she wants more than this provincial life. More comes when her father gets captured by a prince (Dan Stevens) who was cursed by an enchantress (Hattie Morahan) for his cruelty long ago and turned into a Beast. Belle takes her father’s place as prisoner, meets the charming attendants of the castle that have been turned into household objects, and discovers that the Beast needs to find love soon or remain cursed forever. The two start becoming closer as the days go by, but village meathead Gaston (Luke Evans) is bent on having her for himself and will go through any means to get her. It remains to be seen whether Belle and the Beast have anything in common, if Gaston will be thwarted, and this whole affair becomes a tale as old as time.

Review: Beauty and the Beast (2017) was… heartbreakingly frustrating. I’m sorry, but I did not like this movie at all. It sure was pretty to look at and there were some choices that I thought were nice touches, but overall I found it bloated and pointless. The original was a classic and did not need to be remade and it certainly didn’t need a bunch of superfluous extra bits. I usually try to avoid talking about the original when discussing a remake, but the original was such a classic that ignoring it is impossible.

This isn’t like the other live-action remakes Disney has done where there were major changes — it’s beat for beat the same song and dance, except they’ve decided to stretch out the running time with a lot, and I mean a lot, of extra plot, songs, and and character bits. I assure you, none of them are needed and quite a few raise a lot more questions than they answer. There are a lot more enchanted items in the castle that the enchantress left behind, like a book that will transport the user anywhere. That seems like a dumb idea if you’re trying to punish someone; I can understand the magic mirror that shows you anything because it lets you look at something but not touch it, but a book that takes you anywhere and lets your bring objects back? Even if the person couldn’t talk to anyone, it’s still letting them break their own isolation and even get lost in the moment! Am I the only one that sees the problems with this?

There are new songs as well and for the life of me, I can’t remember them. The Beast gets a solo called Evermore that people seem to like, but it was out the other ear the moment I left the theater. It’s surprising because Alan Menken and Tim Rice, the former having written the songs for numerous Disney movies including Beauty and the Beast and the latter having cowritten the songs to The Lion King with Elton John. It’s especially baffling because none of the songs came from the Broadway play, which had loads of memorable tunes and could have easily been put on the screen. Why they didn’t, I have no idea.

Most of this movie felt detached and restrained, which I feel hurts the film overall when the story is meant to be so grand and sweeping. Emma Watson plays Belle as far more reserved than I would expect a free spirit to be. And while we’re on the subject of Emma… yeah, her singing is not great. A lot of people said she was autotuned, but I thought she sounded flat. You know, between this and La La Land, I think we need to start dubbing actors with singers again, because this trend of hiring actors who can only kind of sing is getting ridiculous. The rest of the characters are okay, I suppose; Lefou (Josh Gad) has the best lines in the movie and even Cogsworth (Ian McKellen) gets a few laughs. The actor for Chip (Nathan Mack) though… let’s move on before I’m accused of being cruel to a child.

There’s a lot of other little things that really get under my skin, like the fact that Belle wasn’t allowed to eat during “Be Our Guest” or that Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson) had a husband that forgot she existed because of the Enchantress’ curse (and the Enchantress is never taken to task for this), but if I listed everything that bothered me, this would be the length of a grad school dissertation. The recent trend of live-action Disney remakes have been controversial, but there’s at least something in there that makes it a little worthwhile like trying a tone more reminiscent of the book in The Jungle Book or updating something that general consensus has picked apart like Cinderella. Beauty and the Beast does nothing to justify its own existence; the plot holes it tries to fix are so minor that it’s pointless and it winds up stretching the rest of the material thin. Watch it if you want, but I won’t be joining you.

Fun Tidbit: So Lefou has been updated to be a gay man now, a decision which seems to have split the LGBT community right down the middle. Either way, the media has been touting him as “Disney’s first gay character” or other such things… except he isn’t. There have been numerous Disney characters that have been more or less explicitly homosexual. To name a few, Mulan in Once Upon A Time (Disney owns ABC, so yes, that’s Disney), Sheriff Blubs and Deputy Durand from Gravity Falls who confessed their love in the final episode, and Oaken the shopkeeper from Frozen who even pointed to his family, which was heavily implied to include a same-sex partner.


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