Welcome back to Sound Off!, a semi-regular column where members of Speculative Chic gather together to chat about the latest BIG THING in entertainment. This time, fall in love all over again and discuss Beauty and the Beast, which premiered in the United States on Friday, March 17, 2017.
Sound Off! is meant to be a reaction, but not necessarily a review. After all, while we are all individuals, even mutual love of something (or hate) can come from different places: you may find everything from critique to fangirling to maybe even hate-watching.
Now, join J.L. Gribble, Nicole, and Betsy as they talk about Beauty and the Beast! [Note: How much is there to spoil, really? This post includes some semi-detailed commentary on how the new version differs from the original 1991 Disney animated film.]
J.L.: What a beautiful, over-produced, pointless movie. And I loved every minute of it. Going in, I genuinely thought that I’d be bored. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve seen the 1991 animated version, both as a child myself and again when my much-younger sister went through her Disney princess phase. But this version was just different enough, and it made me fall in love with the story all over again.
While I knew extra songs and scenes had been added to the movie, and that some of the songs had been revised a bit, one thing I especially loved was how even some of the original lines to songs had been tweaked to convey an entirely different meaning. These were the moments that bounced me through the film. Not because I was comparing and contrasting anything in a negative light, but because most of the differences were delightful and intriguing.
So why was it pointless? Because to me, the changes were still so slight. For example, I’m honestly not sure why such a big deal was made about this version of Beauty and the Beast being more feminist than the original. Belle showed a bit more spunk, especially in the latter half of the film, but the significant changes I had been expecting did not occur. It’s not as if she physically takes on Gaston herself at the end, which part of me had almost assumed after all the hype.
I make a point not to see movies in 3D unless they were specifically filmed to be viewed that way. Since this version of Beauty and the Beast was not, I’m so glad that I stuck to my rule. Why? See my initial comment about over-produced mess. Don’t get me wrong — this movie was absolutely stunning. Gorgeous and detailed and, at times, almost hyper-realistic. So much so that it almost became too much of a good thing.
Finally, I thought long and hard about how to incorporate my commentary on the inclusion of a canon gay character in a Disney movie, and finally realized that I didn’t have much to say. Other than: “It’s about damn time” and “I’m not really sure what the big deal was.” Obviously, the big deal is that representation matters, and Disney did a great job with this one. I’m pleased that I never saw any outrage regarding the multiple biracial couples that were also featured in this movie, but after all: This is a love story between a girl and a beast.
Nicole: First off, I need to admit something.
I 100% went to see this movie because I wanted to see Gaston.
Now before you jump to conclusions, let me clarify — I don’t like Gaston. He’s a pig, and he sucks on every level. But it was Luke Evans, Bard and Slayer of Smaug the Dragon, that drew me in. An upstanding hero now a total jerk who apparently also has an amazing singing voice? Oh, yes, please, the curiosity is too much. So I went and I delighted.
The movie itself delivers on pretty much everything you hope it delivers on. It sticks very close to the original with only a few minor changes here and there. Some changes I enjoyed, whereas others had me a little irked. To save time, here’s a brief rundown on what I noticed.
Things the Movie Did Right:
- Casting is top notch and the singing was excellent. Kevin Kline made an adorable Maurice.
- Belle’s take-nothing-lying-down attitude. Not only does she pick up a stick to defend herself with before entering the castle, she immediately starts concocting escape plans the second she gets a chance.
- Giving LeFou agency rather than just be a bumbling sidekick. It just made everything better.
- Making it fairly clear the wolves were not normal (I have a thing about wolves being cast as snarling evil beasts out to eat everyone’s baby).
- Belle riding off to help her dad without bothering to change out of her dress (that always bugged me).
- That nod to the original fairy tale with Maurice taking the rose.
Things the Movie Could Have Done Better:
- Belle not singing to sheep and instead being surrounded by flowers.
- Disappointing lack of Cogsworth. Pretty sure he had more lines in the original (I got your back on that baroque joke, Cogsworth).
- I miss Beast running around on all fours like, well, a beast.
- Beast doesn’t gift Belle his library in the same adorable fashion he does in the original. In fact, he seems to not really try as hard in this version to win her affections as he does in the animated movie.
- That 2-second-long snowball fight. Pretty sure Beast killed Belle in that scene.
- Those accents. Some French. Most English. …Did LeFou even have an accent?
- Random sorceress. Lady, what are you doing there?
Of course, these are all small, nitpicky things that only an adult would notice and bother mentioning. Kids won’t care at all, and these issues are easy to dismiss and enjoy the movie for what it is. My biggest issue was, interestingly enough, with Gaston. I found his actions inconsistent and never got that scary, dangerous vibe from him that the animated version got across. So when he tried to get Maurice out of his way the first time, it didn’t seem believable. C’est la vie, I suppose.
In the end, he’s still the bad guy, Luke Evans can seriously sing, everything played out as expected, and I had a good time. While the original animated version will forever have my heart, I applaud Disney for what they’ve delivered to us, young and old alike.
Betsy: I don’t think anyone who knows me at all can possibly be surprised that I’m a part of this Sound Off, or even that shocked that I’ve actually seen the movie twice already — and I’m so glad I did. It means I already have the adjusted perspective to look at the things they changed or added a little differently than just “it’s not the same as my childhood favorite.”
Because honestly, one of the reasons I’ve been looking forward to it is because I expected it to be different, somehow more, than the animated one was, but there’s still this knee-jerk “that’s wrong!” reaction about some things. This film is longer, it’s more complex, it incorporates source material from the original French rendition, and gives nods to several other more recent re-tellings (not least of those being Disney’s own previous film) in really brilliant ways. There are some really clever laughs, and it was tremendously appealing to see LaFou as more than just the goofy, even-dumber-than-Gaston sidekick. There are some new songs, as befits a musical of longer length, and although I was not enamored of them the first time, at least two are growing on me and will probably turn into favorites before too long. They addressed several long-standing inconsistencies and questions from the animated film, though of course they created one or two others. The sets and cinematography are stunning, and I literally cannot wait to get my hands on whatever platinum collector’s edition they’re going to come out with and watch ALL THE SPECIAL FEATURES. I want to know all the things. I have so many nerdy questions. And it was disproportionately satisfying to hear Celine Dion at the credits again.
Basically, I loved it, and will continue to love it, and everyone else should love it, too. The end.