‘Beauty and the Beast,’ Disney Fetches a Pail from its Endless Well

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Over a quarter of a century ago, 26 years to be exact, Mickey Mouse and company brought fourth the animated adaptation of the 18th Century French classic by Madame de Villeneuve, La Belle et La Bête. Paige O’Hara was the golden voice of Belle and Robby Benson portrayed the Beast.

The past couple of years have shown the resurgence of Disney Magic via their acquisitions of Marvel and Star Wars. Beyond the financial success of those corporations, Disney also revitalized their princess properties with live action versions, beginning with Maleficent in 2014 and Cinderella the following year. Now, dipping back into their princess well, Disney brings fourth, Beauty and the Beast, this time with Emma Watson  and Dan Stevens in the title roles.

Visually, Beauty and the Beast was phenomenal. Unfortunately, it was almost shot-for-shot, line-for-line and song-for-song the original animated feature. The two new songs are absolutely forgettable, but will never detract Disneyphiles from learning them.

Sadly, Watson’s voice could not match O’Hara’s as her singing was karaoke quality at best in an attempt to hide that she couldn’t hit the higher notes. Also on a bit of a sower note was Emma Thompson, who decided to play Mrs. Potts with a Cockney accent and by no means could reach anywhere near the range that Angela Lansbury had in singing such an iconic song. Ewan McGregor falls flat as Lumiere, but Ian McKellen was born to play Cogsworth. Luke Evans’ Gaston stole the movie. If anyone should be most recognized for their efforts it is Evans.

Now, on to the “controversy,” of Josh Gad’s Lefou being, gay. Yes, he does play him up as an extremely effeminate stereotype, but the two “gay jokes”, are blink-and-you-miss-them moments. In fact, these two visual gags have been used so many times in the past 120 years of cinema, that any controversy stemming from them is an excuse for publicity. Ray Fearon plays the latest black stereotype of the wise sage, Père Robert, the bookstore owner that sees beyond the small minded villagers.

Honestly, the only thing this incarnation of Beauty and the Beast made me want to do is rush home and watch the original animated feature to hear the songs sung properly.

Beauty and the Beast opens Friday, March 17, 2017 and should be the easiest payday for Alan Menken.
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