*WARNING: Long post!*
Tale as old as time,
Tune as old as song.
Bitter-sweet and strange,
Finding you can change,
Learning you were wrong….
(Admit it, you were singing it in your head. 😊)
I didn’t want to see this movie.
Well, actually, right at first…OK, I was a little skeptical (par for the course with any new movie, even when it interests me). Remakes are always ticklish, and admittedly, a basically straight-up remake of Disney’s classic animated movie…well, it sounded a bit “milk-the-old-cash-cow”ish. But hey, nostalgia. I grew up with this story—and I’ve often wondered how it would do as a live-action—so like the rest of the Disney fandom, I eagerly awaited the release…not to see it in theaters…but to read the Christian reviews.
Oh my GOSH.
They did WHAT?!
They did THAT? In THIS movie?
BAM! Childhood ruined.
Thanks a heap, Disney. I am NEVER seeing this flick.
I am speaking, of course, of Disney’s decision to push the LGTBQ (RST…XYZ…MC-squared…“Alphabet Soup” :-P) agenda and make Lefou their token “gay” character (I still can’t quite can’t believe I’m writing this about Beauty and the Beast…). I was shocked, angry, heartsick, disgusted—dazed, even. And although the initial knee-jerk reaction has worn off into a sort of cynical acceptance, it still sickens me, not only that Disney caved in to the current societal pressure, but that they chose to do it with one of their classic works. I can accept that this sort of thing is coming—that sin is becoming more and more accepted in society at large, and that it will eventually creep into more and more movies. But if it must happen, I do wish Disney had waited to push that garbage in some other story and left this one—which so many of us have grown up with and loved since childhood—alone.
So why did I break my initial “vow” never to touch the new B&B with a ten-foot pole, and see it anyhow? Because there was (to use a legal term) reasonable doubt. Some of the commenters on Christian Spotlight declared the “gay” content didn’t detract from the main story. That it wasn’t as bad as people made it out to be, and that the rest of the movie was good.
And then my mother saw the last fifteen minutes or so while visiting my aunt and cousin in California this Summer, and said it was pretty good. She didn’t pick up on the “gay” aspect…because she didn’t know it was supposed to be there. It made us curious if all the fuss in the Christian community was just that—a lot of fuss.
So we stuck it in the NetFlix queue.
As far as the whole “gay” thing goes, there are really only one or two “uncomfortable” moments (Bro’s description), but overall, it’s very, very subtle, and if I hadn’t known Lefou was supposed to be a queer, most of his antics and lines that could be taken that way would just come off as goofy with a dash of “Wait, what?” Peter described it as “trying too hard to be funny.”
On the flip-side, I liked the other aspects of Lefou’s character development in this version. In the cartoon, Lefou was just Gaston’s goofy, caricatured, “whatever-Gaston-says-goes” little sidekick. In the cartoon, he was on Gaston’s team, so he was a bad guy. End of story. In this version, though, Lefou is a bit more complicated—a bit less black-and-white. As the movie progresses, he goes from hero-worshiping Gaston to becoming increasingly conflicted with his best friend’s actions, until he’s finally so disillusioned that he essentially turns against him. His line in “Kill the Beast” illustrates his growing inner conflict: “There’s a beast on the loose, there’s no question/But I fear the wrong monster’s released.” He’s seeing Gaston for who—and what—he really is: A self-centered, unfeeling “monster” who will stop at nothing to get what he wants, no matter who gets hurt.
In some ways, this was an improvement over the original character, and I really wish Disney had left it at that, rather than Doing The Thing.
What is more in-your-face, in my opinion, is the man who, when the Wardrobe dresses him up in women’s clothes, looks ridiculously pleased.
That, and the dog…um…marking his territory…on the hat stand’s foot…while the latter is turning back into a human. Totally ruined the moment.
*Eyeroll* Come on, Disney….
I always knew that, if B&B were a live-action production, it would definitely earn a PG rating (in fact, I sometimes wonder if the cartoon shouldn’t have had that rating), given some of the dark and intense moments in the film. And those elements are darker and even more intense when rendered in live-action and realistic CGI (I actually kept forgetting that the Beast, the wolves, and the animated bric-a-brac weren’t real).
Personal caveat: Real wolves don’t viciously attack people unless they’re rabid or starving. Wolves get such a bad rap in stories anyhow, but the ones in B&B (both versions) are especially menacing. These ones, though, were even more so, and I felt their leader having that nasty scar over one eye was a bit over the top. Bro’s theory is that, since the woods around the Beast’s castle were cursed, perhaps the curse affected the wolves who lived there in some way.
Whatever the reason, the wolf-scenes (especially the Beast’s fight with them) are ten times more intense than in the cartoon. For this reason alone, I wouldn’t let anyone under ten see this movie, and even then, not without an adult present.
That said, there is no gore whatever—the Beast’s wounds look more like a bad sunburn under his fur than anything else. But it’s still hard to watch.
The Beast’s confrontation with Gaston is also ramped up a bit—mainly, again, due to being live-action. Having Gaston shoot the Beast in the back four times seemed overly vicious…but then, that’s Gaston. He figured if he couldn’t have Belle, at least the Beast wouldn’t, either. Plus the original knife-in-the-ribs thing probably would have jacked up the rating to a PG-13. Which would have been really sad.
At one point, the Beast tells Belle that he “received eternal damnation” for a rose, and when he catches Belle looking at that very (enchanted) rose, he shouts at her, “You could have damned us all!”
I don’t feel he’s swearing here—he’s using the word in its (mostly) proper sense…sort of. He feels the life he’s brought on himself (and all who live in his castle) is a living Hell, and he sees no way out of it (hence, “eternal”). His chance at restoration—and indeed, his servants’ very lives—are connected with the Rose, so if Belle had damaged it in any way, she would have sealed the Beast’s fate…and essentially killed everyone else in the castle.
But it still seems like rather strong wording for a family movie.
Personal observation/musing: When the last petal falls from the Rose, the Beast dies in Belle’s arms…and in this version, all his servants turn into lifeless furniture and knick-knacks. It isn’t until after this happens that Belle sobs, “I love you.” And it is at that moment that the Enchantress enters the room…and lifts the curse.
Technically, she didn’t have to. The arrangement was, after all, for the Beast to earn the love of another by the time the last petal fell, and the last petal had already fallen before Belle’s declaration. But an Enchantress who could look into the Prince’s heart and find no love, surely could look into Belle’s heart and see that the Beast had earned Belle’s love long before she said it in words—before the last petal even wilted.
An interesting twist on this familiar and iconic scene, to be sure.
Admittedly, there were a lot of things that took some adjusting to, apart from the obvious live-action-versus-hand-drawn-animation. Little things, and not faults in anyway; just different.
While Emma Thompson’s Cockney (?) accent seems a bit forced (she doesn’t quite have Angela Lansbury’s soft, grandmotherly quality), her voice-acting and singing are pretty spot-on. And Ewan MacGregor does a good job of filling the late Jerry Orbach’s candlesticks.
Some of the familiar scenes are tweaked just enough that they’re different from the cartoon—sometimes for the better; other times, it made them fall flat by comparison. But they didn’t really harm the movie, on the whole. The exception is the scene where the Beast tells his servants he’s released Belle. When Cogsworth blurts out, “But why?!” it is Mrs. Potts who answers, “Because he loves her.” I felt this undermined the significance of the moment—robbed the Beast of confirming in words what he’s shown in actions: He has finally learned to love. I was also disappointed with the Magic Mirror. OK, I can understand their changing its appearance from frosted glass to heavily-modeled gold (there’s a lot of gilding in this movie)…but the looking-glass part looked tarnished around the edges and made images in it hard to see.
On the positive side, much of the bickering between Cogsworth and Lumiere is either toned down or cut out completely, which was nice. Sure, Lumiere teases and pokes fun at Cogsworth now and then, but overall they get along better. In fact, Cogsworth tells Lumiere, “It was an honor to serve with you.” To which Lumiere replies, “The honor was all mine.”
An interesting change from the original is that the one man in town who encourages Belle’s love of reading is the village priest, and his “library” is considerably smaller than the bookshop of the cartoon. It was interesting that Disney would take that route, especially considering the general anti-church attitudes in the world today.
Another change is that Belle asks her father to bring her a rose when he returns from…wherever he’s going (they don’t tell us in this version). Maurice, after nervously enjoying a good dinner at the Beast’s table, remembers Belle’s request upon seeing some roses blooming in the Beast’s garden—despite everything being frozen over…in June—and picks one to take to her. Little does he know, the Beast is watching from the shadows, and is none too pleased at this “theft.”
This is taken from the original fairytale—which my six-year-old self noticed immediately to be missing from the cartoon upon my first viewing—and it was neat to see it reinstalled in the live-action.
I’ll admit I wasn’t too thrilled with Disney’s choice for casting Belle, and I’ll own it was partly due to the fact that the other movies Emma Watson’s been in are on my Don’t Watch list.
Not to be mean, or anything, but to my eye, she didn’t really fit the image of Belle. Her acting also fell a bit flat in places, and I think it would have been better if Disney had hired someone to sing for her. Paige O’Hara might have been a little nasally now and then, but at least she had a good voice. I honestly can’t say whether Emma Watson has a good voice or not, as her singing was so heavily processed that it had an almost metallic edge to it in parts, which was rather distracting.
That said, the music—taken directly from the original cartoon and tweaked a little here and there—is superb. All the old favorites are there, with some of the lyrics cut out and new ones added, plus four new songs that give us a deeper look into the characters’ backstories. Really, this movie is almost an operetta.
I vaguely remember hearing good things about the Beast’s solo, “Evermore,” and when I actually heard it…WOW. Just…WOW.
Honestly, Dan Stevens has to have the best voice in the whole cast.
Musically, it reminds me a little of “All I Ever Wanted” from Dreamworks’ Prince of Egypt, with a lot of emotional and visual similarities to “Out There” from Hunchback. Parts of it have a slight Phantom of the Opera flavor, too.
“Evermore” is hauntingly beautiful, evoking a plethora of emotions and images in just over three minutes. My only beef is that it’s too short. It feels cut off, like it needs a couple more lines in the verses (and one or two more verses) to round it out.
It’s an oddly uplifting song, considering Belle has literally just left the castle, taking with her (as far as the Beast knows) all hope of breaking the curse. Even as he “rage[s] against the trials of love” and “curse[s] the fading of the light,” even as he accepts that the rest of his life will consist of “long, long nights” and “wasting in my lonely tower,” still under his curse, he still has Belle’s memory and his love for her in his heart, and he’s grateful for it, and for the fact that, for a time, light did shine into his dark and lonely life. It’s as if he takes comfort in the fact that, twisted, cruel, selfish, and angry as he was, he was able to learn to love someone besides himself, and find the joy and beauty in life again. As if he’s happy just to have known Belle, to have had her in his life, and now her memory will “still inspire me/ Be a part of everything I do.” It was intriguing to have a glimpse of the Beast’s thoughts and feelings during this scene, and “Evermore” became my new favorite Disney song almost overnight…right on the heels of the afore-mentioned “Out There.”
This version fleshed out the characters a bit more—gave them more back story, thereby giving us a better idea of who they are and why they act the way they do. It answers a few questions the original left us asking—why Belle and Maurice came to the “little town” (which, BTW, is an even further departure from the fairy tale, but it totally works with how they’ve set up the story). Why no one in the village seems to have any knowledge of a CASTLE in the middle of the wood not five miles from their town. Why the Beast’s servants are still patient with and loyal to him, even though, as Belle points out, he’s basically responsible for their being cursed, even though they “did nothing” to deserve it, as he did. It even gives us a small glimpse into what happened to the Prince’s parents, and how he became “selfish and unkind to others.”
I’ll admit that I never cared for the Beast in the original movie—probably because he was rather loud and overdramatic. This incarnation has his tantrums, but they feel less explosive. This version’s Beast is more relatable. More human, even. One can better “see” the man behind the fur.
The movie delves deeper into the chemistry between him and Belle, which is at times humorously awkward, and later tender and endearing. This version showed me what Belle saw in the Beast…and made me love him, too. Or at least promote him to my Favorite Fictional Characters list. 😉
Perhaps my favorite addition (well, one of them) is the “travelling book” the Beast shows Belle—a magical book that will transport one anywhere in the world. While this, and the scene played out after its introduction, are a huge departure from the original fairytale, it totally worked, and provided so much wonderful character development, as well as a look at Belle’s past.
(Fun fact: If you watch Hunchback carefully, you’ll see Belle strolling through the street-scene in “Out There.” In this movie, the Book takes Belle and the Beast to Paris, with the cathedral of Notre Dame in view. Don’t know if Disney did that on purpose, but it was kinda cool anyhow!)
The costumes in this version are slightly more historically accurate, but with some whimsical details (on Belle’s frocks especially) that bump it into the “Fantasy” category. I was a bit disappointed in Belle’s peasant costume, as it sports a low neckline that shows some cleavage when she bends over—a sad departure from the beautifully modest (if rather modernly styled) original. On the up-side, though, her famous gold/yellow ballgown, while still sleeveless and low-cut, at least covers her shoulders and isn’t as shockingly low as the cartoon.
So, is the live-action remake better than the animated film? No.
Is it worse than its predecessor? No.
It’s a trade-off. The cartoon will always be a classic, and the remake will never completely replace it. The live-action lacks some of the charm, and is a bit darker and more serious (therefore not quite as “fun” as the original), but it has more depth. Yes, it has its issues—what movie doesn’t, especially ones made by worldly-minded filmmakers?—but they don’t “hijack” the movie. The main focus of the story is Belle and the Beast’s relationship, which is deeper, sweeter, and stronger for having more background and screen time. I’d make so bold as to say that that and “Evermore” alone make it worth wading through a bit of tripe.
The original was actually pretty “deep” for a cartoon, and I enjoyed it growing up. It’s great for kids and their families…but some of it fails to satisfy as one gets older. The remake takes that depth a step further and provides a slightly more mature portrayal. If it weren’t for the aforementioned tripe Disney felt they had to insert into this story (however subtle), this might become my favorite B&B retelling. I don’t think I could buy the DVD in good conscience, as that would feel like condoning that agenda. But I wouldn’t mind renting it every now and then.
What about you, Gentle Readers? What are your thoughts about this movie? Share them in the comment box!