Movie Review: Beauty & The Beast - Be Our Guest (To Miss This One)
"The Tale as Old as Time" was told once again this weekend. Following in Disney’s plan to remake live-action versions of their classic animated films, Beauty and the Beast debuted to hopeful audiences. After enduring a lackluster performance, plot oddities, and essentially the same movie they already own on VHS, despite the dazzling display of dancing dishes, most moviegoers left unimpressed.
I’ll forgo my usual plot recap (seriously, 4,000 year old story here. You should know it by now), and just dive on in here. Now, there were many valid complaints about the film not standing up to the original, but we’re not going to look at that because a film should be judged on its own merit and not helped or hindered by another. There were some concerns over odd story inconsistencies (like how did Maurice leave the castle and make it to the village when Belle kept his horse?), but it’s a children’s movie, and that audience isn’t really a big stickler for that sort of thing, so this too can be overlooked.
Despite these annulments there were still a great many issues that weighed this film down. Being a musical, one of the first problems that arose was the singing. While every note was in its place, this was not by human achievement, but rather by mechanical design. Belle’s (Emma Watson) voice was so heavily auto-tuned that even I, a man who thought that that was just how Drake sounded, realized it instantly. While it is smiled upon to cast an actor who does both the acting and singing in a movie-musical, it is not unheard of to have someone else sing the part. This simple change would have made the movie much more magical, instead we’re constantly reminded throughout the film that auto-tune is a thing that happens now.
While attention to detail can be leniently judged for a children’s film, what must be more strictly scrutinized is a film’s message. The tale of Beauty and the Beast has always had a questionable moral, many accusing it of being a case of Stockholm Syndrome, and this version does very little to lighten that criticism. This version of Beauty and the Beast puts a little more depth on the Beast (Dan Stevens) and Belle by going into their backstories, but this does not explain their eventual connection. Now, while unlikely, it is possible that he falls in love with Belle in this (roughly) one week window that the movie takes place, but can love really be love when he’s trying to beat a clock? We’re told that the Beast has until the last petal falls to find love, but it’s heavily suggested that no one before Belle and her father had ever visited the castle. The Beast’s love with Belle feels as forced as it probably would have been.
The flip side of that is, is what exactly did the Beast do to garner Belle’s strong affection? He gave her gifts, but things that were easily at his disposal. Two problems with the message this is sending children: the first of which is that gift giving equates love. The second of which is that Beast makes no sacrifices to garner Belle’s affections. True, in the end Beast dies, but it wasn’t by protecting Belle. Gaston (Luke Evans) was after him the whole time. This movie gives a very skewed version of what love is (even considering that it’s between a woman and a beast).
If you’re considering going to see it despite its odd story because you think the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia can save you from it, then you’re sure to be disappointed. While it should be judged as its own film and not be affected by its predecessor, it cannot be ignored that this was almost identical to the animated version. This level of laziness should not take place in any film, remake or not. So, as a remake or as a film in its own right, Beauty and the Beast falls short of the Disney magic fans were hoping for. We can only hope that this is not an indication to the level of effort that will be put into the upcoming live-action projects Disney is producing.