Main cast: Emma Watson (Belle), Dan Stevens (The Prince/Beast), Luke Evans (Gaston), Kevin Kline (Maurice), Josh Gad (LeFou), Ewan McGregor (Lumière), Stanley Tucci (Maestro Cadenza), Ian McKellen (Cogsworth), Emma Thompson (Mrs Potts), Audra McDonald (Madame de Garderobe), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Plumette), and Nathan Mack (Chip)
Director: Bill Condon
I’m still trying to figure out why they want to remake a perfectly fine animated movie like Beauty and the Beast, and I can only think of money as the reason. They have already re-released the animated movie for the big screen during some anniversary thing a while ago, so they may as well just redo the whole thing all over again, only with real people and a touch of the gay to prove how progressive everyone involved in this movie is. The gay thing caused such ridiculous drama over here in Malaysia – where the only gay content legally allowed is those that condemn the act as sinful and immoral – that it ended up giving this movie far more attention than it deserves.
You see, this one is exactly the same in every way that matters to that cartoon. The same key “big moment” songs from the cartoon or musical, only they seem like watered down inferior versions of the original. The opening anthem Belle, for example, feels rather lacking in energy compared to the one in the cartoon, and Emma Thompson’s karaoke version of Beauty and the Beast holds neither the charm nor the heart tugging warm undertones of Angela Lansbury’s version. Ms Thompson seems more concerned with hitting the notes and showing off her vocal prowess. For example, Ms Lansbury’s delivery of the line “Then somebody bends… unexpectedly!” has a subtle pause between “bends” and “unexpectedly”, with a catch in the voice to suggest that Mrs Potts is trying to hold back a chuckle. Ms Thompson, on the other hand, just belts the whole thing out in a polished but mechanical and lifeless manner. And don’t get me started on the version of that song by Ariana Grande and John Legend – it’s as emotional as a corpse during a wake, and while I like both artists just fine, they seem to be going through the motions just for the paycheck.
What, you need me to give out the plot synopsis? Is there anyone who still not know the story? Okay, once upon a time, there was a selfish prince who only liked to have G-rated orgies in his castle with hot ladies in pompadour hairstyles and raccoon make-up, when he wasn’t taxing his people hard to pay for these parties. Then one day, an ugly hag came in, seeking shelter and offering only a rose in return, and he was like, eeuw, ugly, someone please throw her out. She revealed herself to be a hot enchantress, cursed him into a beast, and told him that he had to find true love before the rose sheds its last petal, or he would be an ugly beast… forever.
That’s the moral of the story by the way: goodness and beauty are intertwined. Oh, it pays lip service about how beauty is from within, but the Prince is hot, Belle is hot, everyone who isn’t a designated comic relief is hot, and even the ugly hag is actually a hot enchantress. So, at the end of the day, love only happens to good people, who also happen to be beautiful. If you are not beautiful, you may as well start training to be a comic relief character right away or you will never have a place in this world.
So, back to the plot. Belle and her father finds refuge in the Beast’s castle – the enchantress had magically erased all memories of the Prince and his staff, now transformed into creepy talking household implements – and Maurice plucks a rose from the Beast’s castle. The Beast shows up and, showing how much he has learned his lesson, has him imprisoned until Belle offers to take his place. You have to know what happens next, I’m sure.
The aesthetics of this movie feel off to me. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I find the efforts to replicate the cartoon’s aesthetics seem garish and unpleasant to look at to my eyes. Everything seems too bright, too artificial, like an overlong Hot Topic special on Dress Up Like the Old Days or something. The animated household implements look adorable in the cartoon, but unintentionally creepy when CGI’ed in a live action film. Hermione looks way too much like an underfed fifteen-year old here, while I can only look at the Beast and wonder whether this is some kind of Dragon Age‘s Qunari cosplay gone wrong. On the bright side, Luke Evans may lack the fifty-foot wide barrel chest of the cartoon Gaston, but he injects his character with appropriate smarm and sleaze to actually make his character work very well, and Josh Gad’s LeFou, the subject of overblown controversy in countries which still believe that any hint of gay will spell the demise of god-fearing heterosexuality, is infectious to watch because Mr Gad seems to be having so much fun just camping up and down.
Speaking of the gay, since when is it necessary to put in gay stuff, no matter how subtle it is, in a show aimed at kids who have yet to view people in a sexual manner? What’s the point? The whole exercise is just virtue signaling without actual involvement or activity that signify anything; this very short amount of nudge-wink-OMG GAY!!!! moment does nothing that disrupt the status quo in any meaningful way. Oh, and come on now – making the villain’s sidekick a gay dude who has a crush on that villain is more stereotypical than progressive, if you ask me. If these people really want to champion the cause, they should have just gone all out and made this a love story between Ben and the Beast. Oh, but that will actually rattle Disney’s own stakeholders, and maybe even – gasp – drive profits down, so no, it’s best to just stick to meaningless virtue signalling in a movie where the signalling will go over the heads of most of its target audience.
Anyway, I’m not sure why anyone would want to watch this version when the cartoon version is still available, and that cartoon doesn’t have an over-enunciating lead actress, awkward CGI, and lifeless versions of the songs most of us have heard and are sick of by now. I watched this out of curiosity, and I suppose that’s as good an excuse as any.