First, let the record show that the 1991 original was, in my humble opinion as a then 9-year-old superfan, Disney’s animated magnum opus. So yes, I bought tickets about 2 months ago to see this new live action version on opening night, along with most of my siblings, adults though we may now be.
So, here are my thoughts, thunk in light of the controversy of the past several weeks and having now actually seen the film:
Gaston was the best thing about it. His character was awesomely done. LaFou was the second best.
The much-alluded to gay innuendo wasn’t really all that obvious, but what was there was tasteless and a little wince-worthy (the “wink wink” bite mark on the belly? Really? In a kid’s movie? Just gross.)
The worst part wasn’t some lurking gay agenda, but, rather, that the entire film is basically a line-for-line adaption of the far superior animated original. There were some charming moments and the Gaston song, in particular, was really well done and a rollicking good time.
Emma Thompson was great as Mrs. Potts. And can actually sing, which is a plus in a musical.
Emma Watson, however, cannot, and was flat, charmless, and came off not as “strong” (which is what they were desperately angling for) but bitter and cynical. She was clearly cast as (or at least instructed to be) some kind of updated-for-the-times feminist version of Belle who amplifies all the stereotypical “feminist” qualities written into the original character: strong, independent, intelligent, and courageous. (As if most women aren’t those things?) A woman should be all those things! I pray that my daughter sees those things in me in my best moments, and emulates them. But a woman who is only those things comes off as painfully one-dimensional and makes for an unsympathetic character.
The one glimpse I had of the real Belle was the sweet moment when the Beast bequeaths the library to her. Otherwise, it was really pretty lame. Nothing like 2015’s Cinderella.
So, my vote? Wait for Netflix. This movie is probably suitable for kids 10 and up, but with some parental guidance about the sexual innuendo: LaFou’s cheeky flashing of his “bite mark during the Gaston song,” some cross dressing, a crude innuendo to Gaston having nursed his war wounds by getting cozy with a plethora of widows (ew), some dudes waltzing in the final scene – but isn’t that the case with most kid’s movies these days, particularly those made by Disney?
What it lacked, and what I look for in a movie that my kids can enjoy now, without reservations or frustratingly premature conversations, is a movie that communicates truth, goodness, and beauty to them. This movie had some beauty and moments of goodness, but there were also enough dark edges with the sexual innuendo, mean spiritedness, and some gun violence that took it beyond being a little kid’s movie.
Overall, this was not Disney’s best work by a long shot, and not one I’ll be taking Evie to any time soon.
And hey, movie executives, if by any chance you’re reading?
Don’t you dare touch the Little Mermaid.
And to think, this is why Matthew had to die on Downton Abbey…*
(*Dan Stevens, the actor who played the beast, was the beloved Matthew Crawley on DA who was killed off in season three because he “wanted to pursue other professional opportunities.” Which is well within his rights. But perhaps a CGI beast who comes to life wearing man capris was not an upwardly mobile move, professionally speaking.)