My family and I bought tickets a month ago for the new release of the live action Beauty and The Beast. We were greatly anticipating this new movie. Actually, that’s an understatement. But we’ll go with it for consideration of word count here. Now, let me say, I have never, ever, ever written a film review. I did take a film class in college to meet my arts requirement, but I hardly think that qualifies. Therefore, look at this post as one friend sitting in a coffee shop chatting over some nice caramel macchiato (okay, now we are obviously at Starbucks), but back on track here, just imagine me as a friend sharing my thoughts about the movie. It’s really meant to be that simple of a post.
I had seen the animated Beauty and The Beast movie in theaters for its 1991 release and fell in love with the story, feeling pulled in to that little village with Belle. I could have watched it over and over and over again. And I did—when it came out on video. I’m not sure what was going on in my life at the time, whether I had some stomach bug or if I just had a post-anesthesia upset tummy from surgery, but whatever it was I remember laying on the couch and saltine crackers being involved. I sat and snacked, sipping ginger ale watching the movie back-to-back. It was such a bummer I had to wait each time for the tape to rewind.
I loved this story for many, many reasons. But I connected with it through the opening narrative, particularly the very last line, “for who could ever learn to love a beast?”
It was an important question for my ten-year-old self. I hadn’t quite formulated the question so elegantly as the film did, however, I had asked the question. Many times before. Laying in intensive care with a large red heat lamp rolled over my bed for excruciating bandage changes as even the most delicate nurse had to rip and pull the dried fabric from my raw skin. Raw skin turned to puffy red scars. At seven-years old I knew my body was no longer appealing. No one would look at me as they had numerous times before and say, “what a beautiful little girl.” More importantly, would anyone ever learn to love me?
Three years later, along came Beauty and The Beast, and I wanted to know, “COULD anyone ever learn to love a beast?”
Belle was such an odd duck. She stuck out in her little village. So I quickly connected with her character as well. Understanding the experiences of those who don’t quite blend in.
And the scene, where she discovers her father behind bars in this enchanted castle only to be confronted with an angry beast. Her courage and her love was something even a ten-year old realized. As I grew a little older, continuing to watch the movie, because again, the story was incredible and the music, well, it is timeless, but as I grew I connected that in-castle-prison scene to something else. Belle said, “Take me instead.” The Beast replied, “You would take his place?” You see, not only do I relate to looking like a beast with an 87% scarred body, but there have been more times than I can count that I’ve acted like a beast. But someone took my place. Jesus said, “Take me instead,” and He bore every imperfection of my wounded body and soul upon Him. The greatest illustration of sacrificial love ever known.
So now you know what big shoes this live-action film had to fill in my book.
Allow me to touch on a few different thoughts (in no particular order):
- The Music
- The Cast
- A Comparison
- The Controversy
I really loved the music. The songs written by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman were included in the movie, along with some new songs written by Alan Menken and Tim Rice. (Howard Ashman passed before the theatrical release of the 1991 Beauty and the Beast and a tribute was made at the end of the film, “To our friend Howard, who gave a mermaid her voice and a beast his soul, we will be forever grateful. Howard Ashman 1950–1991.”)
One of the new songs, “How Does a Moment Last Forever” recorded by Celine Dion has beautiful lyrics, some of which are included in the film sung by Belle’s father, Maurice.
I loved how the film offered some back-story. I always wanted to know why the prince was so cruel. I always wanted to know what happened to Belle’s mom, why was it just her and her dad? This film allows for those questions to be answered.
As far as the cast—let me say, they did a fabulous job with casting. We were Downton Abbey fans and I really could’ve used some good conversation to process what happened when Matthew Crawley left the show. However, Dan Stevens moved on to a grand role as The Beast. His eyes!!! Gracious. Who would’ve thought Disney would find a real-life set of eyes as beautiful as those of The Beast in the animated film?! But they did!
Then we have the sweet, precious, head-strong girl Hermione Granger who we bonded with through the Harry Potter movies. Emma Watson is all grown up and made a beautiful Belle. Her wearing that full-yellow gown in the ballroom scene was gorgeous!!! But on the downside, Belle’s voice was a little lack-luster. The notes were sung, they didn’t modify any songs to accommodate. I have to say, she did it. However, there wasn’t the power and passion I anticipated from what Paige O’Hara delivered in the animated film.
The film consistently follows the original movie. And I’m not totally sure what my opinion is on it. Maybe I should watch it again. During the movie I had the thought, “The live-action of Cinderella, Maleficent and Pete’s Dragon were all similar yet quite different. Wonder if I’d feel more into this if it wasn’t so much the same?” I wish I could answer that question for you. While I’m so happy Disney kept true to the original, for me, it wasn’t until the story started to take some different turns that I felt more engaged. Honestly, I think it was the vocals for me. I felt a little bleh, when Belle was on the hill singing, “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere. I want it more than I can stand.” I just wasn’t convinced. Again, it wasn’t powerful and passionate.
Lastly, since I’ve already received some comments, questions and a link to a mom who is now boycotting Disney over this film, I’m going to jump right into the controversy of Disney announcing this film to include it’s first openly gay character.
Here’s my response posted to Facebook regarding the movie, “it's so indirect that kids who have only known a traditional family won't even pick up on it. Actually, I kinda thought the two little snippets were funny and so did our younger boys - they didn't have any idea what it was insinuating.”
I’ve read several articles and opinions regarding the representation of the gay community in Disney films. Some I agree with, but there’s a lot I don’t. This is such a delicate issue for so many. Honestly, I’m not looking at this as an us versus them; traditional versus modern. We are all people. And I like what Bob Goff says about it on page 98 of Love Does, “We can show them that God is full of love and is really the source of hope and every creative idea. People don’t want to be told that their experiences were wrong or that their wrapper or someone else’s wrapper is made out of the wrong stuff. Instead, we get to be the ones to show them real love from a real God.”
At the end of the film, and the day, and at the end of my life for that matter, I pray that people can say of me that no matter who they were, I loved liked The Beast, rather than acted like one.
I John 4:12 NLT No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and His love is brought to full expression in us.
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