BEAUTY AND THE BEAST REVIEWED
“Beauty and the Beast” is the reason I hate most audiences. I didn’t always hate them, but time and experience has a way of changing a person. Growing up, I was never a Disney person. I was raised with the Henson Company and stayed firmly in that camp. My wife dug Disney and could almost time stamp every moment of the 1991 Disney animated musical. So far, the kiddo remains unaffiliated.
Upon seeing Bill Condon’s live take on the classic fairy tale, I was underwhelmed. Yeah, I’m that kind of film nerd that prefers the Cocteau version. In a pinch, I’ll take the Shelley Duvall Fairy Tale Theater take on the story. While the Disney version apes large chunks of the original tale, there is something disingenuous bubbling under the surface. Mid 18th – early 19th European fairy tales weren’t meant to be happy stories about finding love. They were quips told to children to quiet them at night during the Napoleonic Wars.
Times change and Disney’s pursuit of happy audiences is to be understood. What felt darling and Oscar History making in 1991 feels quaint now. It’s part and parcel of the Nostalgia bitch wave that seems to permeate through every aspect of popular culture. Audiences are aware that everything they loved as children is being rehashed, but they don’t know what to do with it. Informed viewers can look back to the 1990s and wonder if their parents felt a degree of disgust at the sheer volume of 1950s/1960s shows becoming movies. The disgust fades when you realize that the market was still wide enough for the American Independent Film industry to become mainstream.
So, while watching a near copy and paste retread of an aging cartoon…what is an audience to do? Judging by the box office receipts, most of you chose to see the film multiple times. There was some controversy about a gay character, but idiots will always find a way to worm their way into the conversation. Time past and I kept trying to ask people what they loved about this remake. Most weren’t even conscious of how much this film lifted from the 1991 version.
That’s the beauty of nostalgia traps. The lull of the familiar permits many audiences to forgive and forget the lack of focus and vision. Was the movie well shot and acted? Sure. Does this continue the proud recent tradition of live-action mining Disney classics? Not so much, but it gets the job done. So, why is it so blah?
Well, it’s the difference between going to Broadway and watching Community Theater. No matter how great your Barber is at playing Sweeney Todd…it’s been done better. Much like another Disney film that I was supposed to enjoy, that nagging thought kept smacking me in the head. Was this film necessary? Ultimately, no. This is the kind of vanity piece that should already have action figure pictures attached to the creative talents’ contracts.
- 2 hrs and 9 mins