'Beauty and the Beast' Review: Much Ado About a Tale That's Still as Old as Time
By John Boone
Walt Disney Pictures
Beauty and the Beast's tale -- the one being told in the 2017 version -- might not be as old as time, but it is absolutely as old as 1991. Because it is the same movie. Which may seem, like, "Yeah, duh, it's a remake." But this is, at times, shot-for-shot the exact same movie, just with human people now.
This is not a reimagining, as The Jungle Book and Alice in Wonderland aimed to be, or told from a different POV, like with Angelina Jolie's Maleficent. But if that makes it sound like I didn't like the movie, I did! I really did! Because I love the animated Beauty and the Beast. It's just something I've noticed with these live-action remakes (reenactments?). It's fun nostalgia to see beloved scenes played out in the flesh, but the bits between end up being a bit snoozy if there are no changes made to what we already know.
As directed by Bill Condon (Chicago, Dreamgirls and Disney's live-action The Little Mermaid, if Lindsay Lohan gets enough RTs, I guess?), much unnecessary fuss has already been made over this supposedly more progressive B&B. Because, honestly, Emma Watson's Belle may be slightly more feminist, but she isn't burning her bra outside some poor, provincial Planned Parenthood. She just teaches a girl to read. (Witch!)
Then there is Disney's first "exclusively gay" moment. Watching the movie, you will absolutely find yourself considering lots of gay moments and thinking to yourself (or whispering to the person next to you, if you're rude), "Is this the exclusively gay moment?" (No. No. Maybe? You'd think. Yes--that was it! Yeah, that was really it.) I'd argue the apparently not "exclusively gay" moment in Frozen was, in fact, gayer. (I'd also argue that Cogsworth is gay.) Josh Gad is great as LeFou, though, and his mincing gets lots of laughs.
This version does provide answers to some lingering questions from the animated one: Like, what happened to Belle's mom? (Plague!) And why did none of the villagers ever notice a giant, Hogwartsian castle before? It still doesn't answer other questions, though, such as: what the f**k is the Beast's name? (It is far more awkward seeing human Belle cry over his apparently dead body and be like, "I love you.........um, Beast?") (Is the Beast's name Adam?) (Is the Beast a buffalo?)
Anyway, it's all very charming. And it is fun watching the iconic scenes brought to life, like the waltz -- a truly magical moment in the movie -- or when the Beast pegs Belle in the face with a giant snowball. (Which is INSANE.) And the enchanted objects are done so well that it's only slightly more thrilling when you see this cast -- Ewan McGregor! Ian McKellen! Emma Thompson! -- together in the flesh. And if Beauty and the Beast 2.0's biggest crime is being perhaps too faithful to the original, at least it acknowledges in the end that Adam (Adam, was it?) is sexier as a beast than a prince. That's progress, baby!