Sunday, April 09, 2017

Beauty and the Beast: A Review

I finally had the time to take two or three hours off to see this film.  I had hesitated because life has been too full, because of the "gay" controversy, and because I don't like to support Disney unless there is a really good reason.  I came across another reason yesterday;  I paid 8.50 to see it at a matinee.  Ridiculous.  It will be a while before I do that again.  I like the experience of a big screen, darkened theater, even the trailers, but not that much.

I went because the animated version in the early '90s is my favorite Disney cartoon by far and because I saw  a traveling Broadway version a few years ago at the Memorial Auditorium in Chattanooga and because the Jean Renoir version from the '40s is spectacular.  I have a special fondness for the story.

After seeing the '90s cartoon version, I was pleased that this was a Disney product that did not have the message "believe in yourself" but "give of yourself for the good of others." 

After seeing the stage version, I was struck by how spiritual the story is; the curse on the prince is also a curse on the servants; the curse means their real identity is hidden; the curse is lifted by selfless love.  

Positives: 
Luke Evans is quite good as Gaston.  Probably the best of the performances.
It was nice to see Kevin Kline.  I have always liked him as a performer.  He's underused, but I like him. 
The singing and music was good, and the opening scenes in the village and in the tavern are fun.

The additional backstory worked for me. The servants take some responsibility for allowing the prince to be so selfish.   The death of Belle's mother is explained.

LeFou turns "good" in the end when he sees how extreme Gaston is; that's a flaw in Gaston though, because he is  unremittingly evil throughout.  If he were that evil he would have just ravaged Belle and not bothered to marry her decently.  

Not so positives. 

Dan Stevens, whom we all fell in love with as Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey and who probably was the main reason people watched that show, does very little in the film as far as visually on screen.  He looks goofy at the beginning (in makeup as a late 17th century French prince dancing at a multiracial ball all of women guests) and goofy at the end when he's "back to normal."  His voice is good but maybe was put through a synthesizer.

Emma Watson was ok.  She lacked something, energy, charm, I don't know. She's cute.

I am not sure if the theme is love or "adventure and fearlessness."  Belle is more about her fearlessness to stand up to the Beast and the situation then about her love and sacrifice.   Is there more than this provincial life?  Is she being rewarded in the end for her devotion or for her pluckiness and spunk for leaving the town?  I wasn't entirely sure.  I think they tried to work it both ways to make her a more modern heroine and not just a girl who loves her father. 

Real negatives:
The CGI is awful, especially for some of the beast's movements.  Seriously, Disney couldn't do better than that?

The scenery, especially the French town, looks about as real as the cartoon did.  It reminds me of the World Showcase at Epcot.  Too idealized.

The "Be Our Guest" sequence  was seizure inducing.  It lost charm by being too much.

OK, am I going to put the "gay" part here as a negative?  A child would not even notice those parts; to me they were just creepy and added nothing.  There was no male-on-male kiss.  There was some touching, some looks.  The Wardrobe attacks the townspeople by dressing three of the men in wigs and dresses, and one of them likes it. "Go be free to be you," The wardrobe says to the alleged cross dresser.

I told a colleague how much I loved Beauty and the Beast and she mocked me by saying it's about Stockholm Syndrome.  Actually, that really isn't a thing, and it's not the point of the story.  I am not sorry I saw it, but I won't sit through it again.  I'll watch the cartoon if I feel the need to immerse myself in such a love story.

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