Fast forward to 2016. The fact that I’m writing about anything not about the actual movie tells you a lot. For reasons unknown, Disney decided that they should make life-action versions of their animated classics. They started the process with Maleficent. This was a masterpiece. Angelina Jolie was great and it brought something new to the story that had never been seen. In the past two years, Disney has released Jungle Book and Cinderella. This should have been a sign, as neither of those were really anything new, just repaints of the classic. Sadly, this movie falls into the latter, but instead of adding even the tiniest detail that enhances the story, the additions are distractions.
The cast is acceptable. The long-running question I have is, if the movie is set in France, why is Lumiere the only one that speaks with a French accent? Are we implying there are no French actors that could have been in this movie? Also, Ewan McGregor, God love him, his French accent was not great. Him singing with said accent was also not great. Among the assortment of additions, making Gaston less dislikable was, but if he was an honored captain, how could he be so cruel? I mean, his villainy made more sense without the change. The movie decided to give Belle the inventor status and make her father an artist. While it was a slight change, it made Belle seem like a hybrid between the original and Hermione. The death of the mother was explained. I almost prefer not knowing, but that might just be me. Le Fou was made to be openly gay. This was sort of implied in the cartoon. I didn’t find this nearly as distracting as I thought I would, but that might be due to Josh Gad not really being in a ton of the movie.
I want to break the movie up into different pieces, to justify my overall impression. Visually, the movie had a lot to offer. I found the ‘Be Our Guest’ sequence too much. I had no idea what I was looking at. I did like that Emma Watson did a great copy of what Belle had done in the original cartoon, amused and also trying to eat. The CGI was kind of crazy. Everything was CGI except a handful of actors. Nothing ever seemed fake, yet I never felt the same familiarity with it as I did with the cartoon.
The singing was passable. I’m sorry. I know there is going to be a lot of talk about one specific person on the cast (who was incredibly sexy while riding on horseback to save her father, I’m big enough to admit that!), but everyone was mediocre. Maybe Dan Stevens is supposed to be a great singer, but his solo song was just okay. The main Beauty and the Beast songs we all know so well were good, but some were not so great. I was not a fan of Ewan McGregor singing ‘Be Our Guest’ with a French accent. I couldn’t hear some of the lyrics due to the toxic accent. The best singer was the wardrobe, Audra McDonald. The few times we get to really hear her, she knocks the songs out of the park.
That last part leads me to where I’ve been veering. If Disney is hell bent on recreating every one of their animated masterpieces, here’s a thought, look back at Maleficent. Bring something new to the story and you justify recreating it. Why didn’t they do this movie in a different setting? Imagine an all-African American cast? Imagine how well the songs would be sung. This movie gave me nothing new, and that is what I felt so frustrated with. And for the young star, Ms. Watson, to argue that this wasn’t Stockholm Syndrome is really reaching. I’ve loved Belle because she was more like me, but I would hope that I’d realise that neither the Beast nor Gaston were good enough. This movie is a meh, at best.
I forgot to add the overall Hina test score on this when I first posted it. This one gets a fail, I’m afraid. There is a surprising lack of diversity. While there are a few people that are not white in the movie, for the most part, all of the critical roles are played by white actors. Even if the movie centers around a woman, and despite Ms. Watson’s arguing, Belle is suffering from some form of Stockholm Syndrome. The few scenes we see of the eventual couple do not paint a picture of change in Beast, but promote the tired belief that he changed for her or that women can change their man. The showiness of the movie can’t overshadow this glaring issue.