A “Beauty and the Beast” Film Review

Beauty-and-the-Beast.jpeg#BeOurGuest Fan Event and Film Review

It’s 6PM and it’s time for the curtain to rise
One thing I learned a long time ago is to always get to the theatre early. It’s fifteen minutes to show time and the house is rapidly filling – anticipation coursing through the room as young and old alike settle in for the Be Our Guest Fan Event of Disney’s newest live-action film, Beauty and the Beast. The house is sold out, with several attendees sporting Disney merchandise and memorabilia. One lucky twelve-year-old is the envy of all the others because she is gowned in Belle’s ballroom dress. There is none of the boycott angst in this theatre. Ushers and managers are helping families find their seats and the lights begin to dim…

Ever since Disney began announcing they were going to do live-action versions of their classics my inner child has never been happier. They began with Cinderella in 2015 with Lily James, Richard Madden and Cate Blanchett. You could argue that they started with Maleficent in 2014 as a retelling of Sleeping Beauty but I think it was less well-received because it wasn’t true to the original story line. What I don’t think some movie-goers realize, though, is that live-action renditions of animated series for years have been produced in countries like Japan. They’re typically made for the most popular of manga and anime series though many will agree that some, like the critically-acclaimed Studio Ghibli films, should never be made into a live-action.

We already have Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass, The Jungle Book and Cinderella. Mulan, Dumbo and Winnie the Pooh are slated for production now as well. But why did it take Disney so long to start doing their own? Now I haven’t really been reading any news article, but if I were to get inside their minds it would be because the CGI and production needed to make the scenes look REAL just wasn’t around yet. Films like The Lord of the Rings can be seen as a doorway into this new realm. The franchise saw more Emmys, Globes, Oscars or whatever else is out there, than anyone else. I think Disney saw the potential in waiting until the time was right to do their live-actions right. From the Grimm Brothers to Disney, people know these stories. So since we all know the tale of a Belle and a Beast, let’s get right into the review.

The Fan Event
When I saw on Cinemark’s website that they were doing a Fan Event the night before the film was to be released I had to jump at a chance to go. One adult ticket was $20 for everything – the freebies, the 3D X D theatre and the ability to choose one’s own seat. I very rarely do things like that, and I’m not above going by myself if no one else can join me – which IS exactly what happened. The only other film opening I’ve gone to was for Star Trek Beyond where I received a free poster that’s currently staring at me from behind my computer monitor. So of course I wondered exactly what a fan event would entail.

17352455_1366399800069734_2547980010512818905_nThe theatre’s lobby was extra roped off, with tables filled with our freebies. Managers were dressed in suits and they had extra staff on hand to assist with other movie-goers who were not attending the event.  I must say I was a titch disappointed – as I thought the rose we were receiving was going to be a real one. But that was probably my brain jumping the gun there. We also got a free [small] tub of popcorn and a free [kids size] drink, both with an image from the film’s poster on it. The “rose” was in paper-pamphlet form that you build yourself. Like I said…just a bit disappointed it wasn’t a real one. I should go buy myself some this afternoon to make up for it…

Oh, and before I forget, we were treated to an interview with the composers of the 2017 score as well as the music video by John Legend and Ariana Grande before the film began.

Cinematography and CGI
Beauty and the Beast is takes place in France, with the original 1991 script including words like “Bonjour!” to set the mood. The 2017 film not only retains this but enhances it with its setting and accents (for the most part. Not everyone can do a French accent). But the “little town” Belle (Emma Watson) refers to in her song certainly looks little. I think Disney wanted us to imagine it slightly bigger, as we seem to only see one-third of it at any given time. Despite having forgotten the castle exists due to the enchantress’ curse, it is still a vibrant place. Do they always sing and dance about each other with the subject standing right there? (Just thinking about that made me laugh).beauty-beast-2017-lumiere-cogsworth-600x341

Disney spared no expense in the castle’s details in this version. Gold details on everything reflect the time period’s setting – well, the time period in which the Beast was reigning. Every little detail in the enchanted candlesticks, plates, clocks, walls, turrets…nothing was left untouched. Even the night scenes were easy to see. (I only say this because in some films, or older TV shows, you know something is happening yet you can’t see a single thing because it’s so dark. The French ambiance is fitting throughout.

And of course Disney was going to take liberties in redesigning the castle, from the dungeon to the roof to the halls. Grand staircases wound through each other in an almost maze-like fashion. The same went for the dungeon, with it seemingly residing in a tower rather than below the castle grounds. The winding staircase scene with Belle holding Lumiere was indeed classic.

What I find rather ridiculous is how some online commentators were disappointed in how the Beast was brought into this century through CGI. Some even called him “unconvincing.” I mean really — how else were they supposed to incorporate him into the film other than through CGI?Beauty-and-the-Beast-1

They retained some of his human features – which IS how Belle recognizes him after his transformation (namely his eyes), but the characters I would have to say that I am personally most disappointed in are Chip and Mrs. Potts. They are, of course, decorated in French filigree, but the facial features…I just couldn’t get over them…screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-5-13-09-pm

 With all the other elements in the film, these few can be looked over.

True to form, Disney also spared no expense in the costuming of this live-action rendition. While it seemed like they kept it simpler in 2016’s Cinderella, that is most certainly not the case with this film. Everyone, from the maids to the Prince, were decked out in the period’s finest. They had the wigs, the facial makeup, the opulent gowns with the corsets and those hip dress-bumper things. I would be incredibly surprised if their costumers don’t win an award or two in next year’s ceremonies.

emma-watson-belle.jpgAnother item to mention is the subtle hint of Belle’s necklace. One thing the directors wanted to do was explain why she did not have her mother. The piece of jewelry reveals itself later in the film – of which I will attempt not to spoil for those who haven’t seen it yet. They added color to her otherwise very blue and white dress and apron – a good choice to make it more village-like.

beautyatb-ftdthIf you were expecting Belle’s classic ballroom
gown with frills abound, then you may be disappointed in this modern twist. I find it rather refreshing – it has just the right amount of “poof” without the look of the blue dress Cinderella wore in that live action. Don’t get me wrong — it’s a gorgeous gown — but if it had been any bigger then it may have conflicted with the size of the Beast. He is the one who is supposed to dwarf her, not the other way around.

There were, if I may be so bold, a few scenes that I was a tiny bit disappointed in. In the “Bonjour” song sequence, as Belle goes to return the book she borrowed, it’s barely a bookshop. In fact, it’s just roughly eight to ten books. The bookshop in the original film was, indeed, a bookshop. One where Belle was the only constant visitor. How can they talk about wanting to travel different places in their imagination with only eight books to choose from? Of course she would have read every single one if that’s all he had…

The scene where Gaston is introduced is also introduced. Remember in the first film, Gaston is duck hunting (in town no less), in the transition between sky and village?

the scene where the enchanted people of the castle fight against the villager intruders. I enjoyed the latter half of it, but the first part.

Belle-and-Gaston-disney-villains-2017789-526-300.jpgThey omitted the full scene of Gaston attempting to ask Belle to marry him in front of her home. In the original 1991 film, Gaston convinces the whole town to show up at their cottage (which is actually on a hillside away from the center of village) in order to have their wedding right then and there. In the 2017 version it’s just Gaston himself, with no one else around to be humiliated in front of. So it is a bit of a loose interpretation to why he would have so much angst in the bar scene with LeFou.

But of course, as in any retelling or adaptation, there’s going to be updates and modernization – short of throwing a visible smart phone in there. We can’t deny it nor keep it from happening. These are just a few examples from the film…

The Controversy
And now for the part that “everyone’s” been talking about – that scene. In all honesty, you could easily miss it if you weren’t looking for it; it’s truly that subtle. The fact that a theatre banned the film because of something so inconspicuously small is beyond me. There are some funny bits where it may allude to a certain character’s sexuality, but what I saw was their character imitating their comrade – as though they wanted to be them – not be WITH them. There is also a small bit at the end where the Wardrobe dresses three men to look like ladies (which DOES happen as well in the 1991 fight scene in the castle), but instead of all the men freaking out one rather enjoys it. This is not a new concept – even Robert DiNero in the 2007 film Stardust even enjoyed it.

It is one of my favorite scenes in any movie and it’s less than three minutes long – incredibly entertaining, well choreographed, and with a great message at the end.

Great Messages
Is that not what Disney is about? Great messages? Changing people? Offering forgiveness and hope?

“The fantastic journey of Belle, a bright, beautiful and independent young woman who is taken prisoner by a beast in his castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the Beast’s hideous exterior and realize the kind heart and soul of the true Prince within.” ~Disney

Well…that took most of my Saturday but that’s okay! I tried not to spoil too much of the new version for you! But in terms of the aforementioned controversy, you are, of course, free to make your own decisions concerning it. If you feel more comfortable going to see it yourself first before taking your family, you will enjoy it both times. Don’t let any theatre manager make the boycott decision for you because the effects are truly negligible. I thoroughly enjoyed Cinderella, I enjoyed Beauty and the Beast even more. And I am most certainly greatly looking forward to what they will do with Mulan.