Beauty and the Beast

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When I was roughly 8 years old, my mom, sister, and I sat down and watched the 1991 animated classic, Beauty and the Beast. I cried at the end, and my mom made fun of me. But this isn’t therapy. This is a review for a movie that made me want to call my therapist.

Growing up, the idea of a young lady being swept off of her dainty feet by a hairy, clawed monster was the epitome of romance. As a jaded, disenchanted adult, it’s creepy. Don’t get me wrong, I date primarily Italian guys, so I’m into a hairy chest, but if you’ve got a fur coat and horns, I’m out. I don’t care how many books you own.

I think the notion of bringing our favorite Disney classics back to the big screen with real people and heaps of CGI is excellent in theory, but having seen it, there’s something unnerving about the finished product. My 8-year-old brain could process that the cartoon was just that — a cartoon. Not real. My grown up brain needed an adult at the sight of a flesh and blood woman not leaving enough room for the holy spirit while she danced with an animal.

Everyone knows the story; a guy living in a castle surrounded by beautiful women and luxury is asked to provide shelter for the night to an elderly woman offering him a rose in return for his hospitality. Sadly, for her, this guy is the French Justin Bieber and he turns her away. Sadly, for him, she’s actually an enchantress who puts a spell on him, turning him into a fanged, unsightly creature. He must find true love before the last petal drops from the cursed rose or he will remain a beast forever.

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Belle (Emma Watson) is a farm girl living in a small provincial town with her father. In the animated classic, her father Maurice (Kevin Kline) is an eccentric inventor who the town assumes is completely off his rocker. In this new take, Maurice is definitely more grounded. Belle still has her head in the clouds and her nose in a book, but she’s also got sensible boots and she is the inventor.

Belle spends 90% of her time fighting off the town’s tall, dark, handsome brute, Gaston’s (Luke Evans) advances while Gaston spends 90% of his time fighting off his sidekick LeFou’s (Josh Gad) advances. Truly, a tale as old as time. Everybody’s in the friendzone.

The 2017 rendition sticks pretty closely to the original; Belle’s father and his horse, Phillipe, get lost in the woods and happen upon Beast’s (Dan Stevens) castle. Branding him a thief, Beast imprisons Maurice. Phillipe — who is a real gentleman in this movie — goes to tell Belle that Timmy’s in the well something is amiss.

Upon discovering her father’s imprisonment, Belle takes his place. And so begins a love story that you can’t think too hard about for fear of a wicked case of the heebie-jeebies. All of our old favorites are there; Lumière (Ewan McGregor), Cogsworth (Sir Ian McKellan), Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson), Chip (Nathan Mack), Madame Garderobe (Audra McDonald), Maestro Cadenza (Stanley Tucci), and Plumette (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) — all of them once in human form, now trapped under the spell as well.

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Belle is the key to releasing everyone in the castle from their imprisoned forms, but she has no idea. She doesn’t know that underneath his gruff, growly exterior, Beast is actually a smokin’ hottie. She doesn’t know. That means, as she’s falling in love with him, she is falling in love with his current form.

Look.

I’m all for true love and not judging a book by its cover, but this is pushing it. There’s a lot to like about Belle; she’s a strong, intelligent, don’t-take-no-guff-from-nobody kinda woman. Does her endeavor pay off? Sure! Beast turns out to be this handsome guy. Is it still really off-putting? Yep!

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I want to be on board for these live action Disney films. I rocked an unhealthy obsession with The Little Mermaid when I was a kid, but now, I’m going to be a nervous wreck when the live action version comes out.

A few things worth mentioning:

  • Kevin Kline was an absolute delight
  • Josh Gad reminds me so much of Jack Black that I kept forgetting who it was
  • Emma Watson MAY have a beautiful singing voice, but I couldn’t hear it over the gratuitous autotune
  • The Be Our Guest number was like an unsolicited acid trip
  • I adore Alan Menken — and this is damn near sacrilege — but I did not care for the new songs
  • The movie was formatted for IMAX, which usually indicates a clean, sharp image, but all of the sweeping shots of the castle, the famous dance, etc. were so blurry that you couldn’t discern anything in the scene until the camera slowed down
  • They blew it on the yellow dress

Needless to say, I didn’t love it. I will tell you that the grown man I waited for the bus with after the screening was over the moon about it and can’t wait for the one about “the red-haired lady, the little yellow dude, and the purple gal.”

What I can say for this film is, they tried. There were cute, funny parts. An effort was made and you can tell they put their hearts into it, but this grizzled, old harpy was not impressed. Have I taken your favorite childhood film and thoroughly spoiled it? Not to worry. Live action Little Mermaid is just over the horizon, so my time is coming. Now, off to the leather couch! We got a lot to talk about this week.

 

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