It took me three weeks from its release date to see Beauty and The Beast. I was kind of resisting it, to be honest. First, it is hugely popular, and I did not want to be stuck in a movie theater full of kids. I tell this story when I saw ‘Frozen’ that I was the only middle-aged man in a sea of little girls, and it made me feel like a pedophile. Second, I kind of ask myself if this movie has a reason for existing, or is it just part of Disney’s never-ending regurgitation of their work so to usurp more money? But the idea of Bill Condon directing lured me to it. Plus, I know that the Republican Party was organizing a boycott of the film because of their opposition to the film’s gay content,’ specifically Le Feau, played by Josh Gad. While I disagree with the interpretation of such content, I would have to admit there are a million of other things in the film that can be coded as ‘gay:’ for example, the musical form itself, and Howard Ashman’s lyrics (apparently allegory for AIDS) and Audra McDonald, six time Tony Award winner. I mean, yeah if that was the yardstick we are going to use, then yes this film is gayer than Gay Gayerson.
But back on that other question, does this film have a reason to exist, or is this just “Beauty And The Beast Karaoke”? (Incidentally, Disney is starting to bill some screenings as ‘Sing Along’ versions of the film) The movie is a good addition to the Disney cannon, and is a delight. even old carmudgeon me found myself smiling a couple of times during the film. It is gloriously shot on film, and each frame is a delicious marvel. But I do have some things to say: Emma Watson is a glorious presence, but her singing voice, while competent is bland. Compare that to Paige O Hara’s from the original, and you can see the difference between how a real singer performs the beautiful Meinken-Ashman songs. In a lot of ways, the voices on these songs are as much characters as the characters themselves, and Watson’s vocals are yawn-inducing. At times, there are more expressions on The Beast’s mask than Watson’s face. But then again, as I comment on that, I must give the movie props for hiring Audra McDonald, and when she opens her mouth to sing, even on a ine on the ensemble pieces, all is forgiven.
I’m being talkative, but the bottom line is that this movie has brought joy to a lot of people, and will for generations to come, and it will keep the musical moving along, so more power to Disney for spending 160 million to make this happen. I’m sure they’ve made that money back by now.