The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic:
on BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (2017, 129 minutes, PG)
The Quick of It -
Okay, so I’m sitting here writing a review to a movie that is a live-action remake of a classic Disney film. This is not all that big of a deal these days as times have changed in Hollywood. We’ve had CINDERELLA, the ALICE’s, and JUNGLE BOOK come through the wash, with plenty more on the way. Now, having seen the original back in 1991 with my (then) wife and (still) son in the theater was something to behold. This was among the Disney movies that generated a large vibe (which eventually led to people shiving others for VHS copies, no joke). But, like I said, times have now changed and you can expect more to follow. The shiving incidents have died down some, probably from thinning the herd.
The new BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is everything you would want out of a live-action version. Awesome sets, extravagant costuming, and the heart of the original. But, aside from that, let’s take a closer look… Follow me down the rabbit hole (yes, pun intended).
You start off with the prince getting cursed. If you feel this to be a spoiler, go do something else, move along. He is cursed by an angry sorceress who has disguised herself as some homeless lady, while he is hosting an extravagant party. She barges in and stops everything so that she may beg for a place to stay for the night. I would like to refer to Wiki here –
In criminal law, entrapment is a practice whereby a law enforcement agent induces a person to commit a criminal offence that the person would have otherwise been unlikely to commit. It "is the conception and planning of an offence by an officer, and his procurement of its commission by one who would not have perpetrated it except for the trickery, persuasion or fraud of the officer."
So, looking close, she stumbles into a party he is responsible for, he has tipped back a few drinks, and she expects him to suddenly feel the need to house a smelly, dirty lady who he does not know. To me, this screams the sorceress’s only intent was to curse this man, nothing more. Sure, he may be a douchebag and be ugly on the inside, but he didn’t go out of his way to wrong her. Somehow, this great and powerful sorceress felt the need to punish this guy by turning him into a beast, and to make it more extreme, to include turning all his undeserving servants into household items. Hmmm…
Okay, now, here comes the lovely Belle. She starts singing about her hopes and wanting to leave her ‘provincial’ life. She sings with the town, all throughout town, about how she wants more. My first thought is how our star Emma Watson must have gone through a ton of training hours to learn how to ‘sing and smile’. This must have been a grueling practice; I wouldn’t even want to imagine the suffering she must have endured. No one smiles that much, sorry. Then, you have the townsfolk singing about how they find her beautiful but odd, as she is passing by. This goes on for minutes… minutes. And at the end, she comes into her house and says to her father about she ‘thinks’ people talk about her as being odd. You say?
On to Belle’s father, the perfectly cast Kevin Kline as Maurice. He seems normal at the start and has a sense of right and wrong. Also, after having lived in Paris, you would assume he has been exposed to proper etiquette. Maurice gets into a little trouble with navigating the countryside roads and eventually finds a hidden castle down a dark lonely road. Yes, the weather is bad and wolves are after him and his horse, no doubt needing a refuge. But, for whatever reason, he barges into the prince’s home, someone who he does not know, and decides to wander around and the gall to sit down to eat a dinner prepared for, who you could only assume from his position, the resident of the castle. Where did the French learn manners? How could he not see this as a breech of someone’s privacy? Then, in fear, he runs out into the garden area to escape the talking teacup. In said garden, he finds a rose and thinks nothing of taking that, either. Ya following me here?
Speaking of talking objects, let’s move to Mr. Lumière. Ewan McGregor is a stellar addition. But, shouldn’t this be a little troubling. If you were to at least cast one Frenchman in this film, shouldn’t Lumière be the obvious choice… if only to avoid the ‘whitewash’ epidemic. But you pick a Scotsman to be the most French character. And, how about his dancing around and touching everything? He is a frickin lit candle. In addition, his girlfriend is a feather duster, Plumette… a feather duster. His love should have gone up in a blaze right in front of his eyes. In fact, everything should have gone up in a blaze with as handsy as he was.
As a bibliophile, I want to make one thing clear about the motivations that move the plot. This is not a true love story between a woman and a beast – it is a love story between a woman and her love for books. If not for that magnificent library, Beast would have been stuck as a furry plush toy. Books win her over, she never loves him. When she thought she might lose her library and all the magical servants (remember the things she wanted at the start, not living like a normal person, a ‘provincial’ person), she ‘claims’ to love him. This story should have ended very differently.
There are plenty of other possible points to examine but I will hold off. Items such as Fast and the Furious Chip, the addition of sexually confused characters, and the darkness found in Disney’s wolf-bait scene. But, to the point, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is still a magical story filled with Disney wonder. There is no point in telling you to go see it… you already know that.