Sunday, April 2, 2017

Beauty and the Beast

Yesterday, we decided to have a family day and take the kids out to see a movie and enjoy a nice dinner. 

 This had been in the works for a while now, since we heard that the Beauty and the Beast live action was being released. Since the 1991 Beauty and the Beast, to this day, remains my favorite Disney animations of all time, I was pretty hyped about this release. 

 And then the director opened his big mouth.

 I'm sure many of you heard about it. Bill Condon, just days before the release of the film, stood up on the highest rooftop and crowed loudly in regards to a "delicious gay moment" that would be in the film. We heard all about the "first openly gay character" in a Disney film.  Condon is quoted in saying“And that’s what has its pay-off at the end, which I don’t want to give away. But it is a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie.” 

The backlash of this interview Condon did was felt around the world, literally, with countries like Malaysia banning the movie.  Parents were quick to say that they were no longer going to take their children to see the movie because they didn't want to expose their children to it.  I was upset myself, especially after reading many of the hints that Condon gave in regards to what the "gay moment" would be.  LeFou (which means The Fool) was not gay in the 1991 animation, he was simply a society reject who idolized Gaston and worshiped the ground he walked on in order to be part of the "in crowd" - to be friends with the popular guy. 

 After much internal debate and after reading various reviews of people who had seen the movie in private screenings prior to the release, I made the decision to go ahead with our original plans and take the kids.  

Yes, the live LeFou (played by Josh Gad, who also voiced Olaf in the Frozen franchise) is flamboyant. Yes, there are many insinuations that he's probably gay in the movie.  But, it's not "in your face".  There is not absolute "delicious gay moment" as Condon says there would be, and in all honestly, there's no true "first openly gay character"..  One can watch the film and make the decision that LeFou is gay, but there's never any one moment or one line that announces the character's definite sexuality or preference.

There are three scenes that Condon MAY have been referring to.  One is during the "Gaston" song, at the end LeFou plops down on the arm of the chair where Gaston is sitting and reclines back close to Gaston and then he says "Too close?" to which Gaston replies "Yes, too close".  The second is during the fight at the castle, with the wardrobe dressing three men in woman's garments (this occurred in the original animation but it was only one character).  Two men run away in fright while the third smiles, winks and saunters off like he's comfortable in the attire. The final moment is during the final dance scene, LeFou and another man bump into each other during the dance and then dance together.  None of these scenes are bothersome and are very quick, minor things that happen in the movie.  If these three brief images are something you would find offensive, so be it. I didn't find them offensive, in my honest opinion and I doubt small children would notice anything amiss.  

My honestly opinion in regards to the whole "exclusively gay moment" comment from Condron was nothing more than a ploy to bring more attention to a movie that already had loads of attention, maybe in the hopes to increase those from the LGBT community who might not otherwise go watch a Disney movie in theaters. However, for all the hype, it seems Condron should have just kept his mouth shut.  While the movie has done well in the box office, it would probably have done much better without the  unnecessary controversy that in the scheme of things kept many who were originally wanting to spend their money from the theater because the director made a mountain out of a molehill. 

So, what about the actual movie, beyond the "gay moment" that was really overhyped?  

I ended up having a love/hate relationship with this movie.  Visually, this movie is breathtaking.  The recreation of the

castle, the village and the Beast himself are all amazing. Casting seemed spot on as far as trying to recreate the characters and to be true to the original. Yes, Luke Evans isn't the muscular meathead that Gaston was but he does a great job at bringing the character to life and he's just as shallow as his animated counterpart. (Although this Gaston does have an even more sinister side to him that we didn't see in the original).. LeFou is flamboyant but Gad's version brings a bit more intellect to the table, fighting an internal debate as he realizes that Gaston isn't the hero he thought - a new line added to the "Kill the Beast" song even has LeFou stating that there's a monster lose but it's not the monster everyone thinks.  We see an internal debate with LeFou as he decides which side to be on and a change of heart in LeFou, making for a great lesson about hero worship that wasn't available in the original 91 classic.  Maurice isn't the eccentric father he was in the animated version but instead shines as a loving father who sacrificed so much in order to provide a life for his daughter and Kevin Kline shines in this part.

And of course, there's Belle and the Beast.  

Emma Watson had some huge shoes to fill and her vocals will never be Paige O'Hara and the weakness in this movie is that her voice isn't strong.  Singing, she's pretty weak and with the extremely loud soundtrack that accompanies each song, this is very apparent.  Beyond that, her acting was great, she was believable as the character and I won't begrudge her too much the singing performances.  After seeing the movie, I can't say I could see anyone else in the role.  The movie does go a bit more into the backstory of Belle (and Maurice), answering the question as to what happened to Belle's mother, some of the struggles that Belle faces living in a "poor provincial" town and what exactly she means by " I want so much more than they've got planned".   

But everyone loves the Beast and this movie just re-establishes that for a whole new generation.  Both my kids walked out of the theater stating Beast was their favorite and it brought a tear to my eye remembering my 15 year old self also loving the Beast the first time I saw it.  The CGI effects to bring Beast to life are amazing, right down to the piercing blue eyes that let you see into his soul. I loved that Dan Steven's voice is altered to resemble the original, reminiscent of Robbie Benson's performance.   Like Belle, we see more of Beast's backstory, a selfish pompous Prince who cared only for himself and was punished for his arrogance.  This movie eliminates the questions in regards to the 10 year old child who just didn't let a stranger into the house but instead alters the timeline to a man old enough to make decisions on his own, old enough to be accountable for his actions and misdeeds and old enough to change. Beast in the classic couldn't read and is taught by Belle - Beast in the new movie is well educated and well versed in Shakespeare and the story of Lancelot and Guinevere. We also see a bit of his childhood and why he is the way that he is.  

However, I did have issue with one major thing lacking in this movie.  Where are the birds??  One of the most memorable moments in the original was when Belle and Beast are feeding the birds but they are scared of the Beast and we see his disappointment when the birds do not respond to his trying to "force" them to eat from his hand.  Belle uses that opportunity to show him how gentleness goes a long way and then we see Beast covered in birds, completely bewildered.  This scene was left out, which left me disappointed.  Yeah, that's nitpicking, I know, but I thought that was a pretty pivotal part of the original, as minor of an instance it was. 

I will admit, I didn't like a few of the new songs.  The two exceptions to this being "How Does a Moment Last Forever" performed by Kevin Kline and "Evermore" performed by Dan Stevens.  These two songs stand out from the rest of the soundtrack (even over the original songs)- though I wish that the score that accompanied "Evermore" would have been slightly lowered to really allow for Steven's voice to shine.  Other new songs, such as "Days in the Sun" (which replaced "Human Again"), and "Aria" fell flat for me and I could have done without.  "Be Our Guest", "Kill the Beast" and "Gaston" do well to pay tribute to the originals, although each have new verses that were not included in the original.

The other thing I didn't like was the new version of Cogsworth.  Ian McKellan does a fine job as the voice of the clock, but I think the animators dropped the ball on the design of the character.  To me he just seemed muddled looking and really not resembling any clock I've ever seen. He looked like a thrown together pile of junk, which is disappointing.  I did, however, like the new look of Lumiere, although Jerry Orbach will always be the voice of the candleholder for me ;)   I thought Emma Thompson did a great job as Mrs Potts, at times even reminiscent of Angela Lansbury's performance. And the new characters were a nice addition - although the spunky dresser has somehow developed narcolepsy. 

Overall, I liked the movie and I will purchase it on DVD once it comes out... I felt comfortable allowing my children to see it and didn't take issue with any of the content that was included... I wished at times that the scores that accompanied the musical numbers would have been dampened just a bit as it's hard to actually hear the singers themselves, but this seems to be the current trend in all movies, not just this one.  Go into this one knowing Emma Watson is no Paige O'Hara and you shouldn't be disappointed.

I just wish they would have included the scene with the birds....  


  1. I had a love it / ugh reaction to the movie too. My family went to see it for me, since it and The Little Mermaid are my two favorite animated movies - except I was a little older than you when they came out :)

    I liked Luke Evans as Gaston, but was really disappointed that he was not quite the right size. Dan Stevens just didn't feel like The Beast to me though. He was missing something and I just kept waiting for that something to appear, but it never did.

    I liked that they fixed some of the time line issues which always bugged me. The new songs weren't too bad, and I can live with the new verses in the original songs.

    My daughter and I rolled our eyes at each other during the Lafou scenes. He really was a bit too ridiculous, however I was happy that he found his way to following his conscience by the end.

    I'll buy it on BluRay when it comes out, and may actually watch the BluRay. However it will not ever be watched the way the original has been.

    1. I agree.. The original will always be our Go-To for B&B.. And you are right, Beast does lack that special something that Robbie Benson's version had. The tone, the demeanor, the humor and the "something there that wasn't there before".. :)

      Thanks for stopping by :)



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