Beauty and the Beast, a live-action version of the classic Disney production from 1992. One of the most iconic Princess movies of its time. Even now, still spawning merchandise and a place in Disney character parades. Loved by kids and bigger kids of all ages. The live action version has received mixed press and reactions ever since the casting was released. Most recently gaining controversy because of the 'gay scenes' that some countries have refused to show. Causing Disney to pull the movie from those countries refusing to compromise its ideals. Certainly, those issues didn't affect its sales, taking $16 million on its very first day in the USA alone.
If you don't know the storyline, have you been living under a rock all these years? We have Belle, the strange young lady who can read, has thoughts of her own and wants more than the small village lifestyle she is currently living. As the inventor's daughter, she is educated, clever. Not traits that the townsfolk want in a wife, even if she is beautiful. She gains odd looks, whispered comments every time she goes into town. Trying to ignore it for the sake of her father, who she helps take care of. Her mother is long dead.
Gaston, the village hunter as well as village pretty boy is fawned over by all of the girls in town. Yet, he doesn't want any of them. Now he is back from war with his best friend LeFou, he decides that he will marry the most beautiful girl there is. Because beauty means the best. Decides he will pursue Belle, no matter what she says. Even when she tells him she has no interest in the marriage. Aided by LeFou in coming up with new ways to convince her into the arrangement.
Then we have the Beast, who was once a man. A spoiled bratty prince, who thought of only himself. Holding lavish parties, pleasing himself. An old woman comes to his door, begging shelter from the storm in return for a rose. When he refuses her, she shows her true nature of a powerful enchantress. Cursing him, the castle and all his servants. Turning him into a beast, them into living furnature and setting the castle in eternal winter. Hidden from the world by snowstorms. The rose will not last forever when the last petal drops the curse will never be lifted. He needs to find someone to love, to love him in return or they are doomed.
Belle's father leaves for a fair, taking a jewellery box he made showing Belle's mother. Trapped in a storm, chased by wolves and derailed by a fallen tree he finds himself in the castle. Terrified by its inhabitants, imprisoned for stealing a rose from the garden to take to Belle. A lifetime sentence, just like Beast's for his own rose. When Belle comes to look for him, Beast gives her a choice. Him or her to stay forever. Belle (even knowing that he is a monster) chooses to stay. Anything to save her father's life.
Leading the servants looking for any way they can to get the pair to fall in love to break the curse. While Belle's father returns home trying to find someone to help him rescue his daughter. Gaston tries, giving up when they can't locate the castle. Locking him up like he is crazy after already having left him to die in the woods. Leaving Belle to chose exactly who she wants to save.
No, it isn't the original. It has new scenes, reinvented ones that work nicely into the storyline. Such as Belle's mother, and Beast taking her to see her. Little things which progress the storyline nicely. The actors are well cast (with the likes of Kevin Kline, Luke Evans, Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Ewan McGregor and Emma Thompson), the sets are amazing, as are the costumes. I still hold that the furniture looks better in the original than it does in this. With today's graphics, I expected much more. I love the reinvention of Belle's dress with all those thousands of crystals ready for a new generation of little girls to fall in love with it. Luke Evan's Gaston is truly chilling, I can't imagine anyone else playing him ever again.
The dance numbers were mostly done classily and well. Tale as Old as Time stands up well, the Gaston scene in the bar has new fresh pieces which I enjoyed very much. My issue comes in the opening number (Belle). The chorus didn't know what they were doing. Running lines together so they made no sense, not focusing on what was going on around them. It was a complete mess. As well as the fact a number of the musical pieces were so auto-tuned they didn't even sound like a human voice anymore. Main cast struggling to put any form of emotion into their pitch-perfect performances. Shown most dreadfully in Beas's solo after Belle leaves him. He is technically stunning, deep range, everything about the song is perfect. Which is exactly the problem. Music should never be perfect, it should be emotive. For all the touching words, he could have been singing the lottery numbers for how little it showed emotional depth, not mourning the loss of his love. Talking to many people inside the business and outside, a large number of them find the same issues with the vocals. I wish Disney would cast singers, not actors in these roles.
As for the fuss over the 'gay scenes', I seriously struggled to actually notice what they were! With all the drama I was expecting full on kissing! When I didn't find it, I ended up emailing someone in USA to check they had the same version as me, thinking it had been cut after all. I won't ruin what the scenes are, yet I will say that they are nothing to be so uptight over. A few comments that could be taken two ways, which will go straight over a child's head along with the odd wink. I think Disney dealt with the issue with great class, leaving the whole LeFou/Gaston situation decidedly cute. I never liked LeFou much in the original, yet found myself falling in love with him here acted by Josh Gad. To be honest, I always assumed he was gay anyway. There were far more 'loving' looks at Gaston in the original than this production!
All in all, a wonderful production as long as you can stand the auto tuning.
Sarah Beth James