Reviews for the Easily Distracted

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Beauty And The Beast

Title: Beauty and the Beast

Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote:

Scientist: "This specimen is either a below-average human being or a brilliant beast."

Brief Plot Synopsis: Country girl finds forbidden love with hirsute man.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Three-and-a-half Hank McCoys out of five.

Tagline: "Be our guest."

Better Tagline: "I wanna be your dog."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Belle (Emma Watson) can't live the button-down life like you. She wants it all: the terrifying lows, the dizzying highs, the creamy middles. Sure, she might offend a few of the Gastons (Luke Evans) with her cocky songs and wild ideas — oh, she'll never be the darling of the so-called city fathers who cluck their tongues, stroke their beards and talk about "What's to be done with this Beast (Dan Stevens)?"

"Critical" Analysis:
 1991’s Beauty and the Beast didn’t just represent the high point of Disney’s latest animation renaissance; it was their most empowering tale to date. Belle wasn’t a princess (at least, she didn’t start out as one), but was both intelligent and educated, and also fiercely independent. Her rejection of Gaston – a caricature of Prince Charming tropes – represented a narrative path previously untread by the Big Mouse.

The original paved the way for movies like Tangled, Brave and Frozen, and the idea of the headstrong Disney heroine has become something of a cliché itself. It thus kind of made sense for the studio to revisit what many still consider its best movie (and the only animated movie nominated for Best Picture in the old five-movie format), only this time with some actual live people.

Director Bill Condon and writers Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being A Wallflower) and Disney vet Evan Spiliotopoulos have also taken the story in directions which, rather anachronistically, reflect a more modern value system. Belle’s village is markedly more diverse than one might expect from 17th century France, while Belle herself is now the inventor instead of dad (Maurice is an artist). She’s also much more physically active this time around, less content to let the Beast do her dirty work.

Those factors alone would probably be enough to trigger (heh) another pointless online boycott by the online failure brigades, but then that would waste valuable Twitter characters perhaps better spent howling about the openly gay Le Fou, played by Josh Gad. Gad has a tendency to go too saccharine (A Dog’s Purpose) or too disquieting (Pixels), but he’s perfect here as a much more introspective lickspittle.

What you may not have heard is Le Fou is one of *two* gay characters, and the reveal of the second (a very minor role) provides one of the movie’s biggest laughs. In a good way.

The problem is, they've shoehorned in some unnecessary backstory for both Belle and the Beast that slows the pace of the movie almost unforgivably and, worse, adds nothing of value. Were you curious about whatever happened to Belle's mother? Well, lucky you, even though it does more to flesh out Maurice's (Kevin Kline) character than hers. And was anybody asking for that?

The new songs, like the movie itself, are largely unnecessary. None really stand out, possibly because neither Watson or Stevens are very accomplished vocalists. But you know who is? Luke Evans. If you didn't realize the guy who played Bard in those execrable Hobbit movies was a musical theater vet, you're not alone. His Gaston is a delight and if there's any justice in this world Disney will make a BatB prequel that just has Gaston being an enormous singing asshole.

Huh, that was an unintended visual.

Beauty and the Beast is fine. It's fine. Even (most) of the enchanted servants — Lumière (Ewan McGregor), Cogsworth (Ian McKellen), Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson), Madame de Garderobe (Audra McDonald) — are entertaining. Take the kids (unless you're one of those parents who seriously frets about how to explain "the gays" to them), just don't be surprised to find the new opulence doesn't do much to eclipse the original.

Ask (Three) Seven-Year Olds:
PVH: "What was your favorite part of the movie?
SYO1: "When all the furniture turned back into people."
SYO2: "When Belle saved her daddy."
SYO3: "When Gaston fell to his death."

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar