A “modernized” adaptation of Beauty and the Beast starring Emma Watson of Harry Potter fame and Dan Stevens (Matthew from Downton Abbey) hits theaters today. As a matter of full disclosure I have to tell you, I have never seen this movie before. I have never read the story. I have never seen the play. It just never appealed to me on any level. I’m not a fairy tale loving type of girl. While there are some stories I like better than others (Aladdin is my all time favorite), I am not, nor have I ever been, about that Disney life.
I have to discuss the writing, or shall I say, the rewriting. Beauty and the Beast was written 277 years ago by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. Beside selling millions of books, it has been performed on Broadway. There has been at least one animated film and there was even a television series based on the story. In other words, it has been rewritten before. Something was needed to modernize the story this time; to make it stand out from all the other versions that have been produced before it. So, this version contains an emergent gay character. Le Fou (played by Josh Gadd) is one of the most endearing characters in the movie. No one ever says the character is gay. His mannerisms, some innuendo and his obvious adoration for Gaston is what makes his sexuality questionable. And it’s all really pretty funny without being offensive or cruel. He is someone who is figuring himself out is all, like all the other main characters in this movie. In other words, the part is only as dirty as your mind. One who is pro LGBTQ is sure to feel differently about it than one who is a homophobe. Along with spicing it up with this gay character, there is also an ethnic “mix” to the supporting cast that as far as I know (and I could be wrong) has not been done before. Whether any of this makes this film any better or worse is subjective.
The contrast of light and dark in the story telling is pleasant enough. It is a PG rated movie after all, so no one should be having nightmares after watching it. (Honestly, it was actually a welcome respite after watching all the horror films I’ve seen lately.) There is enough suspense and tension provided to keep you and most children invested in the story, despite the fact that the movie is 2 hours and nine minutes long. There are heroes to root for and villains to despise, and sometimes those lines blur. The song “Be Our Guest” (even though I’ve never seen it doesn’t mean I don’t know what the highlight of the whole event is!) does not disappoint. The wardrobe, hair/makeup, set design, special effects, animation/CGI are all very well done.
Emma Watson has a delicate singing voice that fits here because Beauty and the Beast is touted as a family/fantasy/musical, with the “musical” part being a bit less prominent than the actual story. In other words, Emma is okay for this movie, but I don’t believe she couldn’t pull off playing Belle live on Broadway. The fact that the story is a fairy tale helped. She did a good job singing (nothing spectacular that countless other girls could not have done), but her acting was solid and she really did seem like a pretty good fit for the part. It was fun to see the actors who voiced the animated items throughout the castle revealed in the end (hope that didn’t require a spoiler alert). I had no idea who was even in this movie beside Emma before I saw it.
Beauty and The Beast earned 7.5 out of 10 bloops. It’s a good movie worth seeing. Your kids (boys and girls) will enjoy it and watching with them will bring you minimal pain. Don’t get all bound up in knots over the gay character. He’s really just one more of Disney’s many culturally diverse characters and your kids will just think he’s one really funny guy in the movie. Beauty and the Beast is worth seeing on the big screen for the CGI and effects if your kids insist, but I opted not to see it in 3D and I don’t feel as though I missed anything.