Review: Beauty and the Beast
Cinema: Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Belle is ‘odd’, she reads books, longs for adventure and refuses to fall into the arms of village ‘hard man’ Gaston and become his wife. Gaston is a vainglorious bully, who treats everyone with distaste and only wants Belle because he sees her as a challenge. Belle’s father takes a wrong turn en route to the market to sell his wares and ends up at an enchanted snow covered castle (much like Sleeping Beauty’s) and there lives a Beast, a once handsome but arrogant, spoilt and conceited Prince who was cursed (along with all his servants), by an enchantress to live as a Beast until he could feel real love and is loved back. He has until the last petal from a magical rose falls, otherwise he will remain a Beast forever, and his servants will also have to stay in their new magical forms of a candlestick, piano, clock, teapot, feather duster and tea cup.
Those of us ‘of a certain age’ will remember the original animation of Beauty and the Beast (1991), either because we were children, or, as in my case, had a child who watched it on repeat on VHS. So to say I am very familiar with the original Disney animation is an understatement.
Disney have decided to ‘re-do’ their catalogue by releasing animated classics as live action films, and so far we’ve had Maleficent, a return to the amazing 1959 version of Sleeping Beauty, starring Angelina Jolie in a surprising story of Maleficent not being ALL bad and only acting the way she does because someone ripped her wings off (a rape allegory?). Next up, a remake of the 1950 Cinderella, starring Cate Blanchett as the ‘chewing the scenery’ Wicked Stepmother and a somewhat miscast Lily James as Cinders. 1967’s Jungle Book remake was released last year to much acclaim, and although the CG proved to be exceptional, again, this couldn’t match the original animation for me, and as delightful as Bill Murray is, I felt he was not the Baloo he could have been (as a side note, 2018 should see the release of Andy Serkis’ version of ‘Jungle Book’ which I think may be darker and in tone with the original book; less for kids, more for adults).
Last week I watched the trailer for The Little Mermaid, and was so relieved to find out it has nothing to do with the Disney original. Phew.
Imagine my dismay at the thought of a REAL PERSON attempting to become…Gaston. I mean nearly any ‘starlet’ today could do a passable Belle, but Gaston, no this guy had to be something special, because Gaston is the driving force of the film; Gaston is the Donald Trump of Disney characters.
Now I may sound biased (Luke Evans is Welsh like myself) by saying that, but after seeing the film I really can’t imagine anyone else playing that part. I’m unfamiliar with Josh Gad, but he made a perfect foil to Evans’ bull headed, misogynistic oaf by being subtly gay. Gay enough to get banned in Russia, but subtle enough to make their friendship plausible. Evans really is something to behold, handsome yet despicable, he oozes sex appeal yet still managed to make me frown with disgust.
In fact I would be so bold as to say the casting in this film is spot on. Emma Watson is quite delightful as Belle, not once did she ram feminism down our throats, and her singing voice was sweetly…okay. She was in fact perfect as Belle; sweet and not OVER feisty, but gave a real-feel to her character as a woman who had the choice of never marrying or ending up as the probable punch-bag of the village idiot. Dan Stevens, who I assume was motion captured, gave depth to the Beast, despite his face being covered in hair (how dare he! And… OMG that face ISNT real?) and could also sing. Kevin Kline played her dad with a wistful longing, while Ewan McGregor and Sir Ian McKellen made a good double act as Lumiere and Cogsworth. (Dame) Emma Thompson was of course perfect (as she is perfect in everything), and special Kudos to Stanley Tucci for being his usual over the top magnificent self.
The visuals are really quite lovely and contrary to a lot of reviews I’ve read, the Beast’s face wasn’t fuzzy (no pun intended) and did not detract OR distract from my enjoyment of the film. In fact I have no idea why people are saying that! He’s supposed to be a Beast, therefore he would have a fuzzy hairy face.
The REAL star of this film is of course the songs. All of the original Howard Ashman and Alan Menken tunes are included, with 2 new tunes with Lyrics by Tim Rice. And what crowd pleasing rip snorting songs they are too. Not once did I yawn with boredom or wish they’d hurry up and finish, nope, in fact I sang…out loud (luckily it was very loud in the cinema and the other 20 old women in there – with husbands – I’d like to think they were singing too). The set piece for ‘Gaston’ (with original longer and more ‘adult’ lyrics by Mencken) is a rollicking ride I defy anyone not to want to stamp their feet to, and the centrepiece of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ as the couple finally dance together in the ballroom is everything I wanted it to be with Thompson’s Mrs Potts wobbly voice singing the most romantic of lyrics. I admit a may have got something in my eye as Beast twirled Belle in her yellow gown across the floor. Sigh.
Now I’ve read several reviews of Beauty and the Beast on IMDB, mainly from American cinema goers, who have resoundingly slated it. The consensus is that it’s boring and not a patch on the original. Personally I was a little worried that it would be, like the other Disney live-actions, too ‘right on’ and a bit too ‘different’ from the original and also include a load of overt feminist doctrine that… has a place of course, but maybe not to prove a point. While the feminism in this film IS there and is subtle (‘why are you teaching that girl to read? Isn’t one enough’ and the fact that Gaston can’t believe Belle doesn’t want him, mmm perhaps that’s sexist in itself?) it could have been a very different film.
What Disney have finally done is, get it completely right. Because all they’ve done is tweak it slightly. It is a near carbon copy of a much loved film.
So why bother making it again?
A good question, one I have only one answer for and that of course, is money.
I’m certainly not complaining, even the end credits are beautiful. I would have been more than happy to have popped to the loo, sat back down and re-watched the whole magical wonderful film again. Okay I’ll tell you a secret. In my heart I am Belle, Snow White, Aurora, Cinderella, Mowgli and even Dumbo. THAT is the secret of Disney Films, because most little girls and some boys and lots of transgender people want to be a Princess, and be loved.
So for all the people on IMDB who hate this film… NER to you. The world we live in at the moment, I’ll take some fairytale magic romance any day!!
……………Tale as old as time
Song as old as rhyme
Beauty and the beast………………….
P.S. I cried at the end.
Review by Tina (co-host of 60 Minutes With).