Ever just the same, ever a surprise: Review of the live action Beauty and the Beast
“Tale as old as time
Song as old as rhyme
Beauty and the Beast”
– “Beauty and the Beast”
*Warning Spoiler: The beast turns into a prince at the end. Sorry! Seriously, no spoilers.
Tonight I went to the pre-showing of the new live-action Beauty and the Beast. I bought my tickets early for the “Fan Event” which translated into your tickets cost more, mostly, though we got awesome drinks and popcorn buckets. At first I was thinking I got gipped, because come on, other theaters in big cities got these really pretty pins, and I got a bucket. But still, there were cushy recliners, assigned seating, and a design to the theater that ensured you would see the movie, no matter how tall or fat headed the person in front of you might be.
My husband, who believe me showed his twu luv by coming with me after I bought him a ticket, was literally the legs of the operation. He went back for the popcorn buckets and the drinks, then again back for the 3-D glasses (who knew it was 3-D?) that the stupidhead ticket guy didn’t tell us to take. The special feature was an interview with the guys working on the score (which I’m sure will be on the DVD) and the Beauty and the Beast music video (which has already been on youtube. Check it out, it’s trippin’.)
In case you are wondering about the Things, they were invited to the movie in the same theater at the same time by some friends whose mother actually shelled out for the tickets. Vile betrayers. Thing Two said she hoped that we weren’t close to each other, to which I responded “So do I. Like I want to be near teen girls giggling.” I mean, seriously, I didn’t. I was however, beside an adorable little girl wearing a Belle dress and sparkly shoes. More on her later.
When the movie started, any complaints I might have had vanished. Any other thoughts I had vanished as well. No more political stupidity, no more stress, no more worries, for a little over an hour. Just as I was during my Thing One’s starring role (she was a spoon) in the high school Beauty and the Beast musical, I was transfixed. I was pretty sure my husband was over there, but I didn’t check to see. I did not peel my eyes from the screen.
Was the movie good? Well, I suppose part of it depends on whether you liked the original movie, or Disney period. Though I feel I must point out that the guy playing Gaston is evil but extremely hot, and Emma Watson is obviously beautiful. So you know, there’s something for everybody. Well most people. There were some who, for hateful reasons you can easily discover with a quick Google click, refused to take their unfortunate children to the movie. (Hint: It’s seriously not a big deal and I doubt the kids will notice, parents.) Disney is feeling the hurt, people, I mean with sold out theaters long before the movie began, gosh I’m not sure what they will do!
I was already obsessed long before the movie came out, thanks to them announcing it like ten years early. When the merchandise came out, I completely restrained myself and did not buy a thing. I bought several things. Though not enough to break my budget, so no naysayers. I’ve had my fill of naysayers, most of them found on Disney fan boards. Go away, false fans. Because this was not just a movie. This was an incredible movie, with the ability to make me feel, at forty years old, the awe and wonder and beauty of the film I first watched at fourteen.
It’s a story that is – well not as old as time, I don’t think the dinosaurs did musicals. But close. It’s been retold millions of ways. I love all of them. The heart of the story is always the same – see beyond appearances, for beauty is found within. It is a lesson many people need to take to heart, now more than ever, as they dismiss people based on the color of their skin, the place they grew up, the religion they believe, the people they love. Belle does not fall in love with the Beast as soon as she sees him. She thinks he’s a jerk, since he acts like a jerk. But as she spends time with him, gets to know him, she sees beyond the outside, beyond her first impressions. She finds he is not so different than herself.
“Barely even friends
Then somebody bends
This movie had a lot to live up to, as the original Disney cartoon of Beauty and the Beast is a beloved classic, the only animated feature to be nominated for an Academy Award. I believe it lived up to the original, keeping close with the story, but with twists. For one thing, it briefly mentions why no one realized there was a freaking castle and royalty nearby. That had been bugging me for years! There are also so many touching moments. Like Belle and her father, and their love for each other, and ostracism from a town of people with no imagination, no vision into the future. I know people like those in this “poor provincial town” and – I cannot imagine living that way, with no stories in your head, no new ideas.
They didn’t forget the talking furniture and appliances. They are done in CGI, which some have complained is awful, because they probably come from Belle’s town and can’t see beyond pixels. Though they are very different in appearance than the Disney version, they absolutely fascinated me. Disney created an atmosphere much more conducive to 18th century France. I work in archives, so I tend to like old stuff. The costumes, the enchanted objects, the castle, the town, all of it is very true to the time period. Now some complained that Belle’s dress is too modern, and that lousy feminist Emma Watson should have worn a proper corset. First of all, Belle’s dress is more modern because she’s Belle, always looking to the future, never having to fit in, and also because Emma didn’t want the depiction of unrealistic figures. I for one didn’t even notice, probably because Emma is naturally so thin she doesn’t even need a corset.
Yet with all the beauty, the incredible special effects and imaginative sets, none of it matters if you do not love the characters. And you do love these characters. There is Gaston, the handsome idiot, harmless enough until for the first time he doesn’t get what he wants. The household objects are all lovable as well, which allow you to look past the fact that they aren’t actually on the screen. Emma talked to nothing a lot. There is the Beast, punished severely for his arrogance, filled with anger and despair, but who still has enough humanity to save Belle from a pack of wolves. And there is Belle, who could have escaped when the Beast was attacked, but her morality, her inner goodness, compels her to help nurse the Beast back to health. It starts with small acts of kindness, which lead to more of these acts, more closeness, and more understanding of both themselves and each other, for you cannot love without knowing who you are first. And, as Belle points out, you cannot love unless you are free.
“It is sweet and strange
Finding you can change
Learning you were wrong.”
I’ll admit it. I cried during this movie, with my hands up by my mouth. I cried on the way home. But I wasn’t depressed. They were tears of absolute joy, for this is a story I have written myself, all my life, in books that are never quite good enough, that I have never dared show to any but one friend, that I have never tried to publish, that so often, I say I never have time to work on. But the stories in my head never go away. They are there, urging me on, even as I try to ignore them. But tonight, in the little girl in the Belle dress, I saw not just my girls when they were younger, but I saw myself. The whole world ahead, every day filled with magic, with possibility. I watched as she tried to grab the flakes of gold that shot out of the screen at you. And I delighted when the credits rolled, the song played, and she danced so passionately in the aisle.
It’s time to remember that little girl, or boy, that’s inside you. It’s time to listen to the voice that speaks to you, I mean, as long as it’s not an actual voice you understand. It is simply time for us to find the beauty within ourselves and each other, to love instead of hate, to make the world a better place for the little girls dancing in the aisles, lost in dreamland.
Behind the Fairy Tale: Beauty and the Beast
First off, a disclaimer. There’s been a few who have sheepishly admitted to liking Disney movies. If I were to say I hated them, a friend who blogs here, and has known me since I was twelve, would totally rat me out. I do love these movies, well, most of them anyway. That’s how I know so much about them. Sometimes I watch stuff I like! But it’s just so easy to find the goofy parts. Pun intended.
On to the story, tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme . . . cause, um, you know the dinosaurs totally told this tale, usually in musical form. We start with a narrator who tells us about how this spoiled prince totally dissed a creepy old lady and wouldn’t let her in and oh oh she’s an enchantress. She turns the prince into a beast who then has to find a girl by the time he turns 21 or he’s stuck a beast for all time. Oh, and as an added bonus, his whole staff is turned into silverware, clocks, candles, furniture, and assorted knick-knacks.
I always thought something was off about that. I mean, where were the prince’s parents? And talk about an overdone punishment – what is this, Singapore? Check out this clip from Cracked.com. He focuses mostly on the intro, and he’s hilarious.
After the intro, we skip like ten years and meet Belle, whose name means beauty, so at least she’s not actually named Beauty like in the original stories, which, really, is just freaking asking for trouble. In this version, Belle is lucky enough not to have any siblings. Also, mom’s dead. But you knew that.
So Belle walks down the street in her “old provincial town” where everyone around her breaks out into song and conveniently introduce themselves. Belle is not a bubble head – she reads books, you guys. They’re stupid fairy tales, but I’m guessing she doesn’t have much selection. Since she’s smart and educated, the rest of the town totally doesn’t get her. Having grown up in a small town in the very conservative Bible Belt, I can sort of get that.
The big handsome guy in town, Gaston, decides Belle should be his because she’s as beautiful as he is. What’s odd to me, though, is that there are these triplet blondes that seem quite cute and fawn over him through the entire movie. Like, hey, Gaston, Belle’s not the girl for you. Marry the triplets.
But of course he has to have the one girl who wants him to get lost. He has a henchman who is this freakish troll looking dude. Come to think of it, there are a lot of these short, fat guys in Disney movies. Prince Charming’s father was short and squat. Likewise, Belle’s father is short and squat. Luckily Belle apparently took after dead mom in appearance.
Dad is an inventor, except none of his inventions have really worked up until now. So I’m not exactly sure how he’s supporting them, but whatever. He gets one working, and so goes off to town to show off his machine and get totally famous, which would be great if he had any directional sense whatsover. Even the horse knows better than to go down that creepy, clouded road.
But he goes down the creepy road anyway in a storm and gets chased by wolves, and the horse, showing its superior intelligence, runs home. Dad makes it to a castle that seems deserted. Very quickly he figures out that it’s not empty, but has a talking clock, candle stick, footstool, tea pot, and cups. Instead of freaking out, he just tries to figure out where the batteries are and all. Me? I’d be taking my chances with the wolves.
Mrs. Potts (she’s the teapot played by Jessica Fletcher from “Murder She Wrote”) asks if he wants a spot of tea. Uh, not if it comes out of your nose, no, I don’t. But he does, and he’s feeling lots better at least until the beast shows up. This is a big surprise to Belle’s Dad.
I have a question already. Why is he surprised? I mean, I’m assuming this prince at one time ruled over this little town, right? Or his missing parents did. Yet he’s gone for ten years, and not only does no one investigate this, they totally forget about the guy? I’d understand if we were talking like a century and the castle was covered by vines and stuff, but this is a pretty short time. Oh, well.
The Beast’s attitude hasn’t gotten a lot better in the last ten years, though it’s hard to blame him, considering he went through puberty with a LOT more body hair issues than normal. He yells a lot and throws the old man in a cell.
Meanwhile, Gaston has set up a wedding for Belle, only he hasn’t asked her yet. But he makes a tempting offer – if she marries him, she gets to be his servant and bear him lots of stupid, strapping sons. As hard as that is to resist, she tosses him out. He’s not pleased. Gaston. The triplets are right there. Sigh.
She’s worried about Dad, so sets off to look for him while Gaston drinks and tosses the triplets around. Belle’s dad runs in and begs for help saving Belle from a beast. No one believes him. But Gaston comes up with a devious plan to get Belle by threatening her father with the loony bin. Good plan.
Belle makes it to the Beast’s castle and the candlestick is all excited because she might be the one who will break the spell! She’s also the only female human who has entered the house in the past decade, but still! I can understand the French candle’s desperation. He’s probably tired of having his head set on fire all the time.
The Beast is no nicer to Belle than the old guy, but when Belle offers to take the guy’s place, he agrees. He might be a beast, but he’s not stupid. Girl trumps old sick guy any day. So Dad is shipped back home by an animated coach (I wonder which servant the coach was?) and Belle is given a nice place in the castle. See, Belle? Your prison is, like, nice and comfy!
The living chest of drawers offers her lots of gowns to choose from. Interestingly enough, they all fit Belle exactly. So, then, were these the beast’s mom’s clothes she’s wearing or did he just happen to have women’s clothes there just in case he caught a girl? I dunno.
Belle refuses to eat dinner with the Beast. He’s pretty cheesed off about it, but can’t vary well shred her to pieces since she’s his only chance at being human again. Later, Belle sneaks down and the dining room has a whole production number, serving this one girl every bit of food in the house. The plates, the silverware, I mean everything is freaking dancing here. “Be our guest, be out guest, we’re obsessed!” I’m out of here!
While I like the song, I feel I should point out that the candlestick says the servants are sad because they have no one to wait upon. That’s messed up. Whatever. Belle likes it and somehow the Beast doesn’t pick up on the Broadway number going on downstairs. She asks for a tour, then curiously sneaks off to the forbidden West Wing. Belle finds the rose that’s supposed to bloom until the prince turns twenty-one, when he becomes a beast forever because karma is really freaking awful in this movie.
The Beast finds her, roars, she freaks, and runs out of the castle. Wolves try to eat her, and the Beast saves her. Belle has a chance to run, but she chooses to help the Beast back to the castle. Some would call this honoring her promise. Others call it Stockholm Syndrome. Potato, Po-ta-to.
Unlike most other Disney movies, Belle actually spends a lot more time with the Beast, getting to know him. Granted, she doesn’t actually have a choice in the matter, but still. The Beast finds out she likes books and gives her a library, which was there the whole time, but whatever. Belle’s happy.
They decide to have a date night, and get all dressed up. Belle wears a beautiful form-fitting gold dress and they shove the Beast into a suit. I’m guessing the sewing machine made alterations on his dad’s stuff, or else dad was really freaking huge. They eat dinner, then go to dance.
The ballroom scene is computer animated. Remember this is back when computer animation was still fairly new. And it’s breathtaking, the camera panning around the shining floors and the painted ceilings as they dance. And the song is great too, even if it is sung by a tea-pot. It’s not hard to believe that this movie was the only animated film ever to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. It didn’t win, but boy did the nomination annoy a lot of the human actors. Ha.
After the dance, the Beast asks if she’s happy, you know, being his prisoner and all. And Belle’s like yes, because let’s face it her hometown kind of sucked, but she misses her father. He shows her this magic mirror he uses to spy on, er, observe the world around him. Belle sees her father acting like the useless doofus he is, and begs to go to him. The Beast hesitates, probably thinking about how in a few days he’s gonna doom himself to being a beast AND let’s not forget, doom his staff to be furniture and kitchen appliances.
But he loves her, so he lets her go, cause if she comes back it’s meant to be, and if she doesn’t, you hunt her down and kill her. Wait, no. Sorry. That’s Gaston’s method of love hunting. When Belle returns, Gaston threatens to send Dad to the loony bin if she doesn’t marry him. The Beast gave Belle the magic mirror, so Belle decides to prove the beast is real by showing Gaston the Beast in the magic mirror. The beast is in the process of belting out a Meatloaf song, so he looks pretty freaky.
Bad move. Gaston decides they must go kill the Beast! Luckily, it’s not hard to stir up this stupid town into getting their pitchforks. They have been seriously bored for too long. Belle says he’s really kind, and Gaston asks if she has feelings for this Beast, and Belle’s a bit confused because she’s never been into relationships with animals before. She does point out to Gaston that the Beast isn’t the monster, he is. Oooh, snap. Still, Gaston shuts her and the Dad up and goes off with his crew to kill the beast.
With the help of the stupid tea-cup and the Dad’s invention, they manage to chop their way out of the cellar. There’s another storm, of course, and Gaston meets up with the Beast who puts up no fight while Gaston shoots arrows into him. Meanwhile, the dishes and forks and stuff fight off the villagers in the only battle ever sponsored by Pier One.
When the Beast sees Belle, he fights back, and almost drops Gaston off the castle, but lets him go. Gaston pays him back by knifing him in the back, but stumbles, and has yet another convenient Disney plummet death. No blood, no fuss!
The Beast is dying, and Belle’s sad, and she says I love you, and then stuff starts getting really trippy. In this big burst of light the Beast is transformed into the prince. I’m not impressed. I kind of thought the Beast was cooler. Oh, well. All the servants turn back into themselves, and the prince and Belle dance. There will be time to find an entire castle worth of new furniture later.
How is it different from the original tale? It’s actually closer than many of the Disney movies, but has its differences. The girl’s name is Beauty and her father is a merchant down on his luck. He gets a promising lead and so asks the girls what they want. The sisters are all get me everything, but Beauty’s like oh, just a rose, figuring that’s simple and all. Nope. The Dad picks the rose from the Beast’s garden. The Beast tells the Dad to return shortly, unless he can get someone to go in his place.
Dutiful martyr Beauty insists that she go, and the sisters are all, yeah, totally send her, cause they went to the same mean girl school as Cinderella’s stepsisters. Beauty goes, and eventually falls in love with the Beast, but asks to go visit her home. Beast sends her with lots of bling, and the sisters keep talking her into staying longer and longer. When Beauty finally returns, Beast is dying, but she saves him with those same three words.
This is easily my favorite Disney movie of all. What did you think of it? If you had to be a household object, what would you choose?