Beauty & The Beast

One word: underwhelming.

This movie is production-designed within an inch of its life. Like, literally it’s clogged with lustre and decadence. I find no fault with how it looks; a good faith effort was made to pay tribute to the original, to remind us of the classic animated movie from 1991, while still forging its own little identity, diverging enough from the already-trodden path to inject it with a life of its own.

Unfortunately, none of the new material really lands. Is this just me, loyal to the film of my childhood? Sadly not. But it does pale in comparison. No matter what Bill Condon does, this film inevitably fails to capture the magic of the first.  This is hardly surprising since it beautyandthebeast-beast-windoweschews the magic of animation. Well, traditional animation. The truth is, “live action” or not, Belle is the only human being in that castle. Yes, Ewan McGregor danced around in a motion capture suit to play Lumiere, and Dan Stevens waltzed in steel-toed 10-inch stilts for the ballroom scene, but they’re both playing CGI characters. Why hire greats like Emma Thompson, Ian McKellan, and Audra McDonald, only to hide them behind computer graphics, appearing “live” only in the last 20 seconds of the film? It seems a waste. I rather liked the live action remake of Cinderella, but then, that was always a story about humans, wasn’t it? Jungle Book  (which already has been) and Lion King (which is about to be) turned into “live action” films have little to no humans in them, so what’s the point? They were MADE for animation. Let’s leave them be.

Emma Watson, as Belle, is brilliant casting. She was originally cast in La La Land but left the project to do this instead. I think it was the right choice for her. Her voice is lovely and pure, and she reminds us that Belle isn’t just beautiful, but also smart and brave. Ryan Gosling was originally cast as the Beast and left this movie to do La La Land, and I think that was the right choice for him. Dan Stevens took over the role of the beast, and he’s okay. Director Bill Condon had hoped to create a beast look out of prosthetics, and he did film it that way, but in the end he was overruled and a CGI beast face was superimposed. Kevin Kline as Belle’s father, Maurice, is a wise choice. He’s older and less of a buffoon than in the animated film, but they don’t quite make sense of the character despite adding some back story. Luke Evans has the pleasure of playing everyone’s favourite cartoon narcissist, Gaston. No longer roughly the size of a barn, he’s still the cocky, selfsure Gaston we remember. It’s his sidekick who’s less recognizable.

The animated Le Fou is nothing more than a clown. In the 2017 version, Disney is proud to proclaim him their first openly-gay character, to which I say: hmm? This was maybe the movie’s biggest let down. Le Fou does not strike me as gay. He’s the kind of closeted gay that you only know about because it was issued in a Disney press release. What little humanity he shows already makes him too good for Gaston, but no real motivation is ever ascribed to him. It’s a Disney movie, so of course there is no real sexual tension, but nor is there even the slightest hint of romance or passion. There are more lingering glances between a young girl and a horned beast than there are between these two men. Nice try, Disney, but I’m not buying it. And it’s probably not the greatest idea to tout your first and only “gay character” as this bumbling idiot who languishes with an unrequited crush on a real prick, whom he helps to hook up with women. That’s pretty condescending.

But I take it back: Le Fou is not the most disappointing thing about the movie. In my little batb-02422r-2-a7172c76-a61b-423e-a41b-5965b3fef116girl heart, the biggest disappointment was The Dress. To me it looked cheap. And I’m sure it wasn’t: I’m sure that a dozen people toiled over its construction. I’ve heard it used 3,000 feet of thread, 2160 Swarovski crystals, and took over 12,000 designer hours to complete. Not worth it. The dress is disenchanting. In the original version, the dress is luminous, we believe it is not merely yellow, but spun gold. The one Emma Watson wears seems like a poor knock-off. It feels flat. And what’s with her shitty jewelry? In the cartoon, Belle’s ht_belle_beauty_beast_kb_150126_4x3_992neck is unadorned; why ruin a perfect neckline with even the most impressive of baubles? But Emma Watson’s Belle accessorizes her ballgown with a shitty pendant on a string. I can only assume this is blatant product placement and this cheap trinket will be sold en masse in a shopping mall near you, but it’s so incongruous it’s a distraction. For shame.

 

And for all the little changes this movie makes, tweaks to the back stories and the plausibility, one glaring detail remains pretty much the same. In the 1991 movie, the wicked witch condemns the prince to live as a beast until he can love and be loved in return; if he fails to do so before the last petal falls from the enchanted rose, he will remain a beast forever, and his household staff will remain household objects. In the animated classic, we know that the beast has until his 21st birthday to make this happen, and that this has been a period of 10 years. Therefore, the curse bestowed upon him befalls him at age 11, and for what? Because he didn’t let a stranger inside the house while his parents were away? He’s ELEVEN! And his servants are blameless. It always struck me as an extremely cruel not to mention unfair punishment. In this recent film, the role of the witch is expanded, but this only makes her motivations murkier. We see how harshly she has condemned a young prince, but she seems to overlook much worse transgressions. If this is hard for me to swallow, I imagine it must be even more unsettling for children who need to know that rules and punishments are meted out fairly, at least.

I could not have skipped this movie, the pull was too great. But there was no childhood here to be relived, just a fraudulent imitation that had lost its sparkle.

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36 thoughts on “Beauty & The Beast

  1. fragglerocking

    aw how sad to be so disappointed! I never saw the original, I was a mum with a 3yr old boy when that happened, and won’t see this either, but my grandkids mum’s and their friends and little girls are seeing it in droves, and loving it, maybe it’s a better when you’re not emotionally tied in to the original and can’t compare. The wicked witch and her punishment of the Prince was a load of Disney hogwash anyway, in the original fairy tale the Princes dad died while he was a youngster and the Queen had to go off to war to defend the Kingdom leaving the prince to be looked after by an evil fairy. She tried to seduce him when he reached adulthood and when he refused her advances she then turned him into a beast, nothing to do with not letting a stranger in, but don’t suppose Disney will do seduction in a movie anytime soon, just as they didn’t do gay 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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  2. Carrie Rubin

    I have to admit, I loved this movie. It was total escapism for me, and I plan to go back and see it in 3D next time around. But I agree with much of what you said. And the Le Fou thing was very overblown.

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  3. Lacey

    I haven’t seen, but I will. I am hoping to like it, but yes the movie from my childhood has set a high bar. That being said, how DID they get the dress wrong? We all loved the cartoon dress. . .

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  4. D. Wallace Peach

    It’s too bad this was underwhelming. I can see why after reading your review. I do like the animated Disney stories more than the human versions, in general. I’m sure I’ll be watching this one a billion times anyway (grandkids). Ha ha.

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  5. alexraphael

    The Cinderella dress looked amazing. The dress looks nothing much here. Did you see the doll? I liked the original a lot but this one just seemed to try so hard to be modern. No one I have read has mentioned the songs being good.

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    1. Jay Post author

      The new songs are not good or memorable. Even the old ones didn’t do as much for me. I thought Watson had a pretty voice, and I didn’t mind Evans doing the Gaston one, but Be Our Guest was underwhelming. That’s meant to be such a showpiece, but again they could not create anything better than what the original already had.

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  6. Liz A.

    Tell us what you really think 😉
    I don’t get the whole remaking of the Disney catalog. At all. But whatever. I’ll probably see this when it reaches TV, but I don’t feel the need to go out and chase it. It was never my favorite fairy tale anyway. (I was a young adult when the animated version came out. I liked it, but I was never pulled by it.)

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    1. Jay Post author

      Yeah, I think it’s probably a bad sign when they’re remaking their whole back catalogue. If they did one we’d think it was a fun experiment, but they’ve done Alice in Wonderland and Pete’s Dragon and so many at this point it just feels dirty.

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  7. Birgit

    I love La Belle Et La Bette which is extraordinary! To me the animated film, which is great still pales to this original telling by Jean Cocteau. I’m sad to hear that you found so many issues with this remake. I still want to see it and see if I agree or not but loving your review as it will keep my eyes open

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    1. Jay Post author

      Yes, I couldn’t stay away either. And there are parts that are perfectly enjoyable. I just find a remake unnecessary. I agree that the Cocteau is amazing. This new one, though “live action”, is quite cartoony.

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  8. sportsattitudes

    I was already skipping this one as far as a theatrical run…and your thoughts on the film run similar to what I expected. The Disney selling-out of classic material continues. The Le Fou thing doesn’t sound like it was thought through too well…and it certainly wasn’t received well. All this being said…what a haul they took to the bank. The box office exceeded even the wildest expectations.

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    1. Jay Post author

      We saw lots of little girls in princess dresses at the screening, that’s for sure.
      My nephews seem more than content to wait for Cars 3 this summer.

      Liked by 1 person

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  9. Lorna Cunningham-Rushton

    As usual, I look forward to your review than the actual movie, and as usual, I made the right choice.

    On Thu, Mar 23, 2017 at 6:41 AM, ASSHOLES WATCHING MOVIES wrote:

    > Jay posted: “One word: underwhelming. This movie is production-designed > within an inch of its life. Like, literally it’s clogged with lustre and > decadence. I find no fault with how it looks; a good faith effort was made > to pay tribute to the original, to remind us of” >

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  10. Christopher

    When I watch the Disney animated film I’m reminded of how much it owes to Jean Cocteau’s 1946 film which was haunting and beautiful even in black and white.
    I think the Disney animated film is wonderful and stands up well on its own, but in some aspects it’s a copy of an earlier film…which makes this a copy of a copy.
    Sometimes things just need to be left alone.

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  11. dbmoviesblog

    This is a very fair review. I agree with you on all counts, and think that this animation does not even come close to beating the classic. I also had no idea that Emma Watson was attached to La La Land or that Ryan Gosling was initially destined for the Beast! What a surprise all this for me! I still have my reservations about Emma Watson being Belle. Watson is pretty, but she does not strike me as this classical “beauty”, and what is all the Hollywood’s obsession with casting British in, like, everything? Besides, Watson’s personality is never a match for Belle’s. There is something haughty about Watson I cannot even define or explain.

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    1. Jay Post author

      Haha yes, and only one french accent in a whole film set in France! Weird, no?
      Ewan McGregor has a french wife but the accent still didn’t come easily for him; he had to rerecord because his first try sounded “too Mexican.”

      Liked by 1 person

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  12. Janice Wald

    Hi Jay,
    I wanted to thank you for coming by my blog and liking my new blog traffic post.
    In response to what you wrote, my daughter and I have plans to see Beauty and the Beast next week while she’s home from college.
    I almost became an entertainment blogger, but now I blog about blogging tips, as you saw.
    Thanks again for the visit and the “like”.
    Janice

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  13. Jeff the Chef

    One of the odd things to me was that Disney was calling this an “exclusively gay moment.” As if to say they’d done other, I don’t know, bi-curious things? But what does Le Fou do that ONLY a gay person would/could do? Make witty repartee? Talk a little femmy? Waltz for all of two seconds with a soldier in drag? (That would’ve qualified in the late 70’s, but not in the 21st century.) If any of this is what makes a man exclusively gay, then I guess I’ve been sucking all that dick for nothing. I’ve never seen any of the other incarnations of this show, so, having nothing to compare it to, I enjoyed the production design, the costumes, the song and dance, and Emma. But I was confused by what this story teaches girls. That men are beasts that need to be tamed by their love? Where the hell is Oprah when we need her?

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  14. Bun Karyudo

    I was interested to read your review because my kids really want to see this movie so I’m probably going to have to sit through it at some point. I enjoyed the original, but I wasn’t convinced the story would benefit from a live-action remake. It seems I may have been right about that. Oh well, at least it wasn’t terrible, just a little uninspiring.

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  15. fifi + hop

    I had no idea about the La La Land connection. I thought Emma Watson was perfect for this movie and Emma Stone perfect for La La Land (Ryan Gosling too) so glad it worked out the way it did! I happened to like this Beaty and the Beast a lot, but I also have two little girls…their giddiness was contagious.

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  16. J.

    I saw the trailer for this (can’t remember why) and thought it looked terrible. Emma Watson and that chap Stevens are no Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman, amaright?

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  17. Pingback: The Princess And The Frog | ASSHOLES WATCHING MOVIES

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