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New take on Disney classic raises eyebrows – sort of

By Staff | Mar 28, 2017

The concept for “Beauty and the Beast” has been made and reworked in movies, on the small screen, and on stages across the country, where memorable lyrics and choreography from Disney’s 1991 animated version inspired humming and sing-a-long standards.

Before opting for a version that continues the princess tradition (if it’s not broken, don’t touch it), the company considered a beast centered POV. They wisely jettisoned that concept, opting for a longer, flamboyant harmonious mix of live action and digital CGI where often its score crescendos with Busby Berkley flair.

“Beauty and the Beast,” of course, revolves around the familiar look beyond appearance when searching for love. It maintains similar prince/princess happy endings of “Cinderella,” “Snow White,” and “Sleeping Beauty,” which all surround love, so add “Frozen” to the list for its sisterly emphasis.

Belle (Emma Watson), who allows herself to be imprisoned in the horned furry creature’s castle to allow her father to go free, has a zesty, strong-willed, independent spirit. It’s shown in the village where she has earned a bookworm label and is branded as unconventional for wanting to teach other girls to read. She resists the Beast’s (Dan Stevens) come-eat-dinner demands, which allows the enchanted tea cup, clock, candelabra and other once inanimate objects to display their quirky traits. Ironically, the reading passion later becomes a connection spark in the castle library.

Director Bill Condon has a background in horror (“Gods and Monsters,” “Strange Behavior”) and musicals (“Chicago,” “Dreamgirls”), as well as the two part “Twilight Breaking Dawn” franchise entry. An exquisite choice for a musical monster movie, Condon embraces elaborate design, derivative colors and perfect fluidity, suggesting a nod to the animated classic which likely will see a boost in sales and rentals.

Disbelief never overrides viewers. Call them spells or flirts with insanity, the bubbly, jamming “objects” contain personalities which break through the digital drawings to seamlessly blend with Belle, the Beast and villagers.

Songs move the story and lyrics relate to circumstances (“she did not shudder at my paw…,” “she’ll never leave me even as she fades from view,” “be our guest.. be gentle, be kind…”). The mellow, showstopping “Beauty and the Beast” reprise generates the same “wow” as “Let it Go.”

A “gay moment” leak caused a Georgia drive-in to cancel the booking sight unseen. Unless one happens to be searching for the moment in question, you’ll likely miss this three second waltz cut. “The new LeFou is about as gay as the original LeFou, who dog-whistled in the 1991 film with winking lyrics like “you can ask any Tom, Dick, or Harry/and they’ll tell you whose team they prefer to be on,” noted Slate.

LeFou supplies much comedic foil circumstances, too, so it’s presumptuous to label all his movements and words as gender related. One female critic frowned on the introduction of 90s ‘girl power’ into 18th-Century France, too.

The audience might be more likely to notice a continuity lapse. It’s on screen more time than the other moment, which amounts to a minute cut of a dance pairing that has fascinated some zealous progressives pointing “there it is, there it is. Oh, it’s gone.”

The continuity lapse? Belle rides to the castle on a horse wearing dark boots. She does not tote an overnight bag or purse. Yet, on the library ladder and a scene thereafter she wears cork-soled flats, just like during some earlier village scenes. Guess the magic mirror or the enchantress sent them to her!

This writer’s “she said” counterpart noted the power of love throughout as the theme, noting that a sincere kiss casts aside the punishment for non-compassionate, excessively self-loving conduct.

Condon and the cast earn kudos and other honors for their convincing abilities to unwrap the musical furniture and objects as strongly within the realistic realm, except we know this is an upbeat fairytale and rocking the castle will be not tolerated.

Arguably, the best insert comes from a magical ‘trip’ to Belle’s childhood which fills in a hole in the backstory. An assortment of new songs won’t surpass “Be My Guest” or the title song, which likely will lead to a urge in sales of the 1991 animated DVD.