Beauty and the Beast (2017)
The original Beauty and the Beast was rated G. The new Beauty and the Beast is rated PG. I'm not saying this version shouldn't be PG, but the original is pretty much equally scary. Yeah, it's not live action. I don't know what it is that makes me so upset about this, but I am upset. Very upset. Also, sleepy. Hungry. All these things.
DIRECTOR: Bill Condon
I watched the remake of Beauty and the Beast for the same reason that I watched the live action Cinderella and the live action Jungle Book. These movies keep getting technical nominations for the Academy Awards and I keep leaving with the same take, if not even moreso than the previous entries that are live action remakes. The live action remakes are a fun experiment to see if animated films can be made into live action films, but they offer practically nothing else of substance. I know that I'm going to upset some Disney fans out there, especially those fans who consider the original films incapable of doing wrong, but there was no need for this movie. We get it, Disney. You can remake these movies and people will pay to see them. But they are never going to be these precious movies that people hold in high esteem.
I have to talk about the only real positive of this movie and that's the fact that they embraced that it is a musical. I know fans of the Beauty and the Beast Broadway show wish that they incorporated some of the music from the stage production, but I don't mind that they made this something wholly new (while parroting the original movie?). The thing that the other movies have only dipped their toes in was the music. Jungle Book had two songs, but Beauty and the Beast not only decided to do all of the old numbers, but they made some new songs as well. Okay, that's fine. I'm not married to any of the old songs...with the exception of that tune all about Gaston. (I swear, if it is named "Gaston", I'll eat my hat.) I hear that the Mulan remake is going to scrap all of the songs and I think that is a poor decision. I am going to throw down some more blasphemy and state that I've never actually seen the original Mulan either. Sorry. There was a time in my life where I had no reason to watch Disney movies. I know. I'm offending left and right over here. But the things that kind of make Disney movies work so well is that they are charming and grounding these stories in reality actively fights against the whimsy that the animated form presents. By reintegrating musical numbers, there is something at least somewhat bigger than life. I don't need to see a live action adaptation of the Disney version. Other versions of Beauty and the Beast exist (not excluding the super accurate CW version...sarcasm intended). The story has been told time and again and the only thing that really makes this a memorable thing is that there is music. I've heard complaints that Emma Watson can't sing. I didn't mind her. I think people just be haters when it comes to that kind of stuff. But this might be the only real praise that I have for this adaptation of the story.
This is a digital dumpster fire. The movie should be called Beauty and the Uncanny Valley because nothing really looks right. Okay, I'll already backpedal. Mrs. Potts and Chip look fantastic. Some of the objects look okay. The Beast would look digitally amazing if it was 1999. There had to be a mandate somewhere in the Disney offices saying that the digital effects had to push the limit. Remember how much hullaballoo the scene in the banquet hall caused. People were mesmerized by what a computer could add to the animated world. I know that there was probably no intention make the Beast a live action performer with makeup. There was this insane pressure to knock socks off and that was the big mistake. Think about if this movie decided to just do amazing creature effects. I'm sure that Dan Stevens probably didn't want to do nine hours of makeup daily, but c'mon. That would have been so much better. (I would also like to talk about the projects that Dan Stevens chooses, but that might be a discussion for a later date.) But this movie just looks bad. I can't handle it. There is this odd dark tone to the movie that is impenetrable. I know that the framework for the story is pretty dark, but look at the vibe of the first movie. Even the disturbing parts still live in a fantasy world. This movie tried to be so grounded and none of the charm really translates. I'm probably going to bury this part here because I'm trying to avoid controversy with my writing, but this movie turned some heads when it was going to introduce Disney's first homosexual character with LeFou. The results of this probably made everyone mad. Conservatives weren't happy that Disney was being so overt with its sexual politics. Liberals couldn't have been happy with that stereotyped portrayal. It was uncomfortable, guys. Regardless of what politics are, this seemed to be a step back for humanity than anything else. I thought we were past portrayals like LeFou. The joke is tired and the relationship is bizarre. I read somewhere that LeFou was with Gaston because of their military history. Gaston's evil was meant to be tempered by LeFou, but I didn't glean any of that. There is one line, but that relationship is as superficial as I could possibly imagine. Why would Disney take such a risk and not flesh it out to make it interesting? I don't like any of it.
The biggest argument is that these movies don't need to exist. The Jungle Book was probably my favorite of the live action adaptations. But you know what happened after I enjoyed The Jungle Book. I didn't care. That's a really bad payoff for a big risk. The movie didn't stick with me at all. The only reason that I reference it right now is because Beauty and the Beast is pulling the same card. None of these live action versions of classics become classics in themselves. They're all cheap and temporary and feel like we're trying to make a buck. The most charitable version of that story is that Disney is patting itself on the back for being able to recapture the magic. But it doesn't recapture the magic. It just lets me see the flaws in the whole narrative. The worst part is that Beauty and the Beast is a problematic tale to begin with. I'm really surprised that anyone is revisiting that well, especially so poorly. I think about the Renoir (Cocteau?) version of Beauty and the Beast and that holds up because it was a different era. This movie addresses that it is an icky narrative and almost does something to course correct. But the problem with being slavishly married to the original movie is that any fundamental choices cannot be tolerated. Belle goes from being a woke feminist to the product of Stockholm Syndrome. I don't even want to die on that sword so much as the message of the story is that "you can make someone love you." That's such a bad message and I hate that it has to kind of exist to make the movie work. The beast is an abusive guy who is changing his tune, but why did that have to be romantic love? I would love the relationship of Belle as therapist and that their relationship is a platonic love. I know. Disney movies don't work that way, but I really don't love the "I can make you love me" trope. It sends a really weird message out to kids.
Next year, I'm going to be griping about Mulan. (But, Tim, just don't watch it. I'M A COMPLETIONIST!) I really don't want to watch any more of these movies. They do not make me happy and I find myself horribly bored. Beauty and the Beast might be the worst of the three, despite the fact that it made some of my favorite choices. Spare yourself. Unless you are a die-hard Disney fan, and you probably are, avoid Beauty and the Beast.
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Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.