By Jen P
All nineties kids know the story: beautiful Belle gives her freedom to the terrible (but really not so terrible) Beast, in exchange for her father’s life. We’ve seen Belle and the Beast dine and dance and snowball-fight their way to a friendship… then love. And we’ve seen it all come to a head as the last petal of the rose falls. What we hadn’t noticed, was Disney’s slow decent into the cash-grab frenzy of Hollywood remakes. Until now. Ugh.
CAUTION: SPOILERS AHEAD
Let me start with what I liked:
- Major plot holes from the animated version were filled. Now we know why the villagers never ventured to the castle; a spell was cast to forget it. Also, the writers simplified the primary spell to “before the last petal falls” instead of “before the last petal falls on his 21st birthday”, which is great because I always wondered if he’d been turned into a monster at like… fourteen years old to be stuck like that for years. Though, I’m still wondering if they were frozen in time because it seems that Chip hasn’t aged. But maybe it’s only been four years. In the new film, we only get a glimpse of the child (Chip) from behind before he’s transformed. He could have been four and now eight. We really don’t know.
- Celine Dion reigns once again on the soundtrack. You’ll recall her version of Tale as Old as Time in the nineties (more on that later):
Now, she graces us with How Does a Moment Last Forever:
- The wardrobe and sets are incredibly beautiful.
- The cast is amazing. Josh Gad is a treat as LeFou, and if you don’t think Emma Watson is a great actress, you’re mistaken. Sorry, not sorry. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Every great British actor is in there, and some you may not even know yet, such as Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey, Legion) as the Beast.
- Somehow, they made the Beast look a bit sexy. No, I’m not into fur, but the dude’s a lot less awkward hunchback in this version and a lot more well-read Wolf Man.
- Speaking of sexy, the romance is more believable. More time is spent empathizing with the Beast and why Belle would fall in love with him—as compared to the original.
- The movie boasts an ethnically and sexually diverse cast with biracial relationships, same-sex flirtations, and a cross-dresser for ½ a second. The male on male dance scene got this film banned in one Alabama movie theater, though it’s even shorter than the cross-dressing. Grow up, people, it’s 2017.
- It’s an absolutely beautiful film, rife with fun extras for the hardcore fans of the original. The plot hardly strays from what we know, similar to the most recent remake of Cinderella, but very-unlike the wonderful twisted version of Sleeping Beauty we got in Maleficent.
- Ewan McGregor’s version of Be Our Guest was tons of fun. There were also a few new songs, all of which far surpassed the originally cut song, Human Again, that was on the special features of the animated Beauty and the Beast DVD back in the day.
But WTF, why did they do all this???
- It might be too much like the original. Don’t go in expecting a new film, not really anyway. There was enough variance to keep me entertained for this first watch, but not sure if the same will be said next time.
- Emma Watson’s autotune nightmare. Her singing can’t be that bad, right? I don’t know, maybe, but however off-key she may have been, I’d have appreciated the real sh** over the T-Pain version. And I’m not the only one talking about it:
Search “Emma Watson Autotune” to find hundreds of videos and articles like this.
- Ariana Grande’s remake of Tale as Old as Time. Stop it. Just stop. Quit trying to force that donut-licking brat down my throat. She’s basic, she’s obnoxious, and I’m over it. You decide if this is necessary:
Wardrobe may have been on point, but did Ariana really contribute anything here? No. Celine did it better. John Legend, you’re great, but you deserve a better partner.
- Terrible green screen lighting and often sub-par animation. In one particular screen, Belle and the Beast are surrounded by winter white, yet they’re lit darkly enough to have been sitting in a library. Not only did the lighting hurt my eyes, it obscured their expressions and took me out of the film mentally to ponder such a choice. Disney, you’re better than this.
- The ridiculous accents: Emma Thompson’s overdone cockney accent and Ewan McGregor’s BAD and totally unnecessary French accent. Just listen to Days in the Sun above if you want to hear both. Please tell me why it was necessary for a British actor to fake French when literally no other character had to? I mean, the whole damn film is in France, yet he’s the only guy who has to do that garbage? He even admitted he was terrible at it, yet someone made the choice to push forward. UGH. Leave Ewan alone! Leave his beautiful voice a-damn-lone! And Jesus, that Emma Thompson cockney made me want to blow my brains out. WTF for? What purpose did the accents serve but to make me lose respect for two thespians I usually adore? Someone explain.
- Racial issues are trivialized, while feminist issues are sensationalized. Disney, you’re trying so hard to be PC by including a diverse cast and pluggung a feminine message, that you may have overshot your mark. None of the “evil white male” characters take issue with biracial relationships or a black man running a library in this story that claims to take place in Victorian-era France, but a woman reading and teaching other women to read is worthy of a public shaming??? I get the message was a feminist one, not a race one, but they missed a chance to show the full nature of man. Pretending racism didn’t happen doesn’t make you PC. Plus, from an entertainment perspective, it made me stop to question the rules of this imaginary world, especially considering its roots in reality (the film mentions both the plague and Shakespeare). Great films never pull the viewer out of the story.
- Also, Belle started off as kind of a brat. I mean, we all know Gaston is a nightmare, but we’re talking 1800’s France. She speaks of marrying him as if it’s the most laughable concept, when in reality, though she may have hated the idea, she wouldn’t have rebuffed him so rudely (at least not before she knew his true nature). Yes, she’s a free thinker. Yes, she’s ahead of her time. But she does need to eat… amiright? Women did a lot of stuff they didn’t like to get by, just look at Lily in Penny Dreadful if you want to see a true strong woman of the time. (You can check out T. Mack’s article on Penny Dreadful later this month). This new Belle—if only for 2 seconds of film time—sounded like a spoiled, whiny millennial, not the strong female that we deserve. Even 90’s Belle knew how to rebuff Gaston with grace. This Belle is all, “As if!” while gagging in a corner. Again, I get that Disney was trying to appeal to us millennials, but does that mean they think we’re all just a bunch of whiny assholes? Maybe they’re right. She takes his proposal out on the poor chickens and storms off like a sullen little turd (though I’ve done similar myself when faced with a horrible decision). Thing is, I don’t want to see a bratty me up there, I want to see a heroine with a heart of gold. Thankfully, she goes right back to being an intelligent hard-ass by rushing off to rescue daddy from a monster at the end of the musical number.
- Why did they remake this film at all? Between this and Lion King, I’m at a loss. I don’t think I’m old enough yet for all my elementary school faves to be revamped, yet here we are.
I give it 3.5 Shields.
Though it may seem I hated this film, I left the theater happy and fulfilled. I even teared up at one point. So here’s the takeaway: if you see Beauty and the Beast in theaters, go in with an open mind; know this for what it is—a Disney cash-grab, and a successful one at that; and most importantly, try to remember that it’s about love conquering all in a time when you were expected to marry for survival, not joy. Yes, I’m disappointed in Disney for cashing in on what they think we want, not what we truly deserve, but it’s a brand new world we’re living in. We whiny brats will rule you all one day.
How’s that for a happily ever after?
Go ahead, rip me in the comments. I want to hear your thoughts either way.