Your Favorite Movie Sucks - Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Though released a month ago, this year’s live-action reboot of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” has undoubtedly made an impact on the viewing public, having made over $400 million in the U.S. alone and amassing a lot of fans. I, however, as a critic, cannot help but argue against all of the praise this movie has received. While I will not say that I hate it, I have found that I cannot justify its existence, let alone say that it’s a good movie.

Most people would agree that not every aspect of the movie is executed well. Many will first point to Emma Watson’s singing ability and obvious autotune. And yes, while this can be a little distracting, and pales in comparison to the talent of Paige O’Hara, I didn’t see it as the worst part of the movie (and honestly found it a little less suspension-breaking than the hushed microphone-hugging singing in “La La Land”). The casting was largely okay, even if they completely wasted Audra McDonald on a mere two supporting lines of a song.

If I’m being honest, a lot of the music was a little underwhelming. While Alan Menken is a wonderful composer, and the song “Evermore” was a welcome addition, most of the new songs added are completely pointless. Many begin with a character that gets no establishing shot and end up lasting only one verse. It makes one wonder why they didn’t just use the songs from the stage show, like “Home,” and focus all of their effort on the obvious Oscar-grab. On top of this, a lot of the classic iconic numbers seem to fall short as well. Anyone else notice that the “Be Our Guest” in this version is full of a lot of strange pauses, ones that aren’t even used to the emphasize a nice moment of cinematography? “We’ve got a lot to do,” - (pause with no focus) - “Is it one lump or two?” This kind of energy makes scenes like this begin to feel like the mere recitation of a song the audience is expecting to hear, without earning any of the pomp that surrounds it.

Another part of this movie that has received a lot of attention from the media was Josh Gad’s character, LeFou, being openly gay and in love with Gaston. Personally, I knew from the first hearing of the announcement that this would be 1) barely central to the plot and 2) not very well-written. I think that a fair amount of people would agree that, while this was not necessarily bad or offensive representation, LeFou’s scenes often hold a certain amount of awkwardness, either through jokes that don’t land or emotions that would feel more serious if the tone of the dialogue didn’t feel so light. When it comes to having gay characters portrayed in either a comedic or dramatic light, I think Gravity Falls (another Disney cartoon) did a better job on both accounts with characters that got even less screen time than LeFou. This was a character who spent most of the movie in a one-sided and abusive situation that ended much more suddenly than is reasonable and was, in the end, given the “Mama Mia” treatment - coupled at the very end with a character that had no name and three wordless seconds to establish a connection. In terms of representation, all I have to say to Disney is what Mrs. Potts said to LeFou (in an interaction that did not match the violent context of the scene at all): “You can do better.” I guess we’ll just have to wait for Frozen 2.

While the overall visual style was nice enough, as were most of the technical elements, the weakest part of the movie by far was the overall story; the pointless additions that try to get rid of the “flaws” of the original animated movie while also trying to copy it shot-for-shot. A lot of people will try to credit this movie with fixing the plotholes of the 1991 classic, like the fact that the Beast would have to have been 10 years old when the enchantress cursed him for the events of the film to make sense, but this version creates an even bigger plotholes of its own, like the book that can transport someone to anywhere in the world (seriously, what was that? I haven’t seen any fans even try to defend it), or the claim that the castle servants deserved to be cursed because they let the Beast grow up to be so cruel. They were just doing what they were paid to do, and even if they are to blame, would Chip not be innocent? Not only are these annoying, but a lot of time is devoted to answering questions directed toward the original movie that nobody was asking in the first place. Namely, what happened to Belle’s mom. A scene is added in the beginning where Kevin Kline as Maurice (the best casting choice in this film by far) sings a sad song while tinkering with a clock, one that shows a man - clearly himself - painting a picture of a woman and a baby. This is a touching scene that tells the audience all we need to know, yet an inordinate amount of time and conflict later is devoted to Belle trying to figure out exactly what happened to her mother. Why? How should this connect with her want for adventure? How come she doesn’t use this magic book to live out that “great wide somewhere” lyric? Or to help her dad? Why, why did they add this?

I could nitpick for hours (Why are the other servants’ faces are more blended into their inanimate objects while Lumiere now looks almost fully human? What the hell was the point of Agatha and her probably being the enchantress? What’s with the tree symbolism surrounding Belle? Was that supposed to represent anything, or was it just as pointless as those butterflies in the Cinderella remake?), but it all would culminate in the biggest problem this movie has: that it only exists because of the original animated movie. Every choice is meant to reference or to try to directly recapture the artistry, the visuals, and the grandeur of that film. A film whose creators put in so much more effort because it was made for its own sake, not for nostalgia or a marketing opportunity, like this movie. The original movie was groundbreaking in so many ways, ways that this movie tries - and in my opinion, fails - to replicate. It’s the replication that takes away the meaning behind all of those songs and characters and pictures, and this is why this new movie will never be remembered like its predecessor was: this movie will never be its own.

If you like it, I understand. A classic from our childhood now has more shadows and detail and a budget and casting that fits the current times. But if you claim that these things make it better than the older film, I fail to see your reasoning.