Continuing Hollywood’s cycle of remakes, reboots, and re-imaginings this week Emma Watson stars as Belle in the live-action version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
You probably know the story of Beauty and the Beast, it's the story of Belle, a young woman considered and oddball in her small French village because she reads and is independent. When her father stumbles into an enchanted castle inhabited by a beast and is taken prisoner, she trades herself for her Father. In spite of her fears and anger towards the beast, she befriends him and learns to see beyond his fearsome exterior. The flip side of that is that the beast was once a handsome prince who must learn to love and be loved before the last petal of an enchanted rose falls to the ground, dooming himself his servants who have been turned into things like candelabras, clocks, and teacups.
Here's the thing, if you've seen the 1991 animated version, this is a near shot for shot live-action remake with a few extra songs and scenes, then you know how this movie is going to turn out. There are no surprises here. The most controversial issue was when actor Josh Gad revealed that his character LeFou was homosexual. Some people went nuts over that news, small town theaters cancelled screenings and some groups threatened boycotts of the film. Let me tell you that it was not an issue. If he hadn't made the announcement it’s likely that no one would have noticed.
The movie has an all-star cast with Ewan McGregor as everyone’s favorite candelabra Lumieire, Ian McKellan as Cogsworth, Emma Watson as Belle, Dan Steven as Beast, Luke Evans as Gaston, Josh Gad as LeFou, Kevin Kline as Maurice, and Stanley Tucci as Maestro Cadenza. They were all great but I need to pick on Emma Thompson for a minute. I really like Emma Thompson not just as an actress but as a person, I interviewed her a few years ago when she in Men In Black 3 and she was so pleasant and fun. She voices Mrs. Potts which was the role of Angela Lansbury in the animated version. Lansbury’s singing of “Tale as Old as Time” is an iconic movie song. Emma Thompson did a wonderful job of covering that performance but it’s not the same and it felt very strange hearing another voice sing that song. She also added a slight cockney accent to it which I didn’t particularly care for.
From a technical standpoint, it didn't do anything for me. It was clearly meant to be seen in 3-D. I saw it in 2-D and found myself saying "I bet this looks better in 3-D". Sadly, the CGI beast did not blend well with the live-action scenes. In an era where we can use motion capture and make a giant Ape look convincing, the beast should have looked better.
So, here's the most important thing to me about Beauty and the Beast. It's not a movie that I really wanted to see. Actually, I struggled to stay awake for much of the film. Come on, it's not my fault, blame theaters for installing comfortable recliners. Back to my original point, it's not a movie made for me. It's a movie that was made for the little girl in the theater lobby who was dressed as Belle...and I'm glad she got her movie.
Also in theaters this week...a film written by James Gunn, the director of Guardians of the Galaxy, a movie that is the completely opposite of Beauty and the Beast. The Belko Experiment is a movie about a twisted social experiment, in which a group of 80 Americans are locked in their high-rise corporate office in Bogota, Colombia and ordered by an unknown voice coming from the company's intercom system to participate in a deadly game of kill or be killed. That is what they call box-office counterprogramming.
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