Hallo. Yes, it’s been a while. I’ve been busy, biding my time. I actually saw several good movies (Logan, Moonlight and The Lego Batman Movie), the reviews of which are forthcoming despite them probably being gone from your local cinema by the time of reading. But really, I wanted a film to hate. A film to boil my blood. I was waiting.
Strap your arses in lads, for I saw…
The Disembodied Frozen Head of Walt Disney has apparently decided that a Best Picture nomination just isn’t good enough. No, he’d rather completely diarrhoea-splatter out of his neck-hole all over the memory of possibly the studio’s finest fucking film for the sake of oh, I dunno, several billion dollars in revenue. By the way, that’s a Best Picture nomination in 1992 when there were only 5 nominees, back when a Best Picture nomination was a fucking hard thing to get (I’m looking at you, Silver Linings Playbook oh sure let’s DANCE OURSELVES HAPPY, that’s how depression works!)
The 2017 remake of Beauty And The Beast is a smoking, soulless, CGI crater where once there was a pinnacle of the art of animation. I hated it with every fibre of my being, and I am actually struggling to come to terms with this hate.
The film takes an 80-something minute masterpiece and tops it up with a fizzy head of incredibly wrong-footed additions and embellishments that improve nothing, painfully stretching it past two hours and actively worsening the original Disney classic in retrospect. This film is so poor that it’s actually ruined a separate film for me!!!
“How does it do this?”, you may wail.
Let’s dig in, shall we?
Director Bill Condon (of Dreamgirls fame) has created a bizarre Epcot-Does-France paint-by-numbers world, where the cobblestones are obviously plastic and everyone is wearing what is clearly an un-lived-in costume while they aimlessly hobnob and stage-whisper the word “rhubarb” in the background of each and every crowd shot. The interior of the Beast’s castle is mostly a physical set, and yet the field in which Belle desperately claws in the direction of her high notes is a morass of green-screen and rotoscoped-in foliage.
It’s a cringey spectacle that looks like your Dad filmed a touring Disney-On-Ice show with the highest-definition camera possible, revealing all the cracks and the Beasts’ big wobbly mascot head. It makes you long for Tim Burton’s sad, washed out Alice in Wonderland, because even an insulting parody of your own once-breathtaking style still counts as… y’know, a style.
Shut up, Depp. You dug your grave, have the decency to die in it.
But enough about the “look” of this film, let’s talk about the elephant in the room.
Emma fucking Watson.
Can. Not. Act.
The actor’s “performance” in this film is so bad as to be alarming. Awkward, stilted and wooden, she emotes at a sub-pantomime level. If you saw her give this performance in your local community am-dram theatre production of Beauty and the Beast, you’d demand your bake-sale cookies that you made in lieu of paying actual money back. In Emma Watson’s book on acting, every scene must begin with an alternately shocked or winsome inhalation of breath, and end with a practiced lip-quiver or perhaps that one “I’m onto you” eyebrow arch that she still can’t get right even though it’s all she’s done since she was eight years old.
Watching Watson in this film is to realise that Hermione Granger’s most empathy-murdering qualities – her grating vocal tone, her strangely disconnected camera presence, her rigid “I’m a smarty-pants, so there” attitude to every interaction with literally any other character regardless of their status or her relationship to them – none of these were in actuality a choice on her part, or any of the nineteen directors on that series.
As it turns out, these qualities are inherent in Watson’s own natural way of being. She is a smarmy, utterly charmless automaton. Believably acting as a love interest, even a captive love interest, is beyond her non-existent capabilities.
To make matters far far worse, her diabolical singing is subjected to Michael Bublé-level autotune throughout and mixed desperately downwards into the string section or completely enveloped by the no doubt professionally-trained chorus when possible so we don’t notice that she cannot hold a tune to save her life.
If there is any justice in this world, such a display of incompetence would rightfully be the end of Watson’s career.
So of course, she should probably consider running for fucking President of the United States.
All told, Watson fails utterly at achieving chemistry with either the gnashing CGI clusterfuck of Dan Stevens’ Beast, or the flesh-and-blood reality of actors like HOLY SHIT IT’S KEVIN KLINE!!!
Yes , YES I DID!
KEVIN PLEASE SAVE ME FROM EMMA WATSON’S HORRENDOUS ACTING. How does her acting make you feel, Kevin?
Kevin Kline’s on another fucking level in this film. A Tony-winning singer for Pirates of Penzance, and an Oscar-winning comedic actor for A Fish Called Wanda, here he remoulds the eccentric Maurice of the animated film into a much more charming, avuncular figure. Like Peter Capaldi’s Doctor Who, he gives the entire enterprise the side-eye while still being the only good thing about it.
So good is Kline in this film (and in general), I got the feeling that his banter with Phillipe the horse was improvised mainly because it’s the only dialogue delivered by a recognisably human person seemingly having spontaneous thoughts that he subsequently vocalises aloud A.K.A he’s fucking acting. The scenes between Kline and his horse represent a more clearly defined relationship and far more charged love story than anything mustered in the main narrative.
Dan Stevens has the thankless task of mo-capping the horrendously realised Beast, and he admittedly does fare better than Watson, showing some range through the layers of ones and zeros. It’s just a pity the character is so smugly irritating, and the effects so poor. While he’s no Kevin Kline, his singing is at least serviceable and the vocal effect layered over him to create the Beast’s growling register does him a lot of favours. It’s almost funny when he transforms at the end into a weedy little fella, like Neil Hannon from The Divine Comedy.
The brilliantly realised Gaston of the animated version – a bicep-bulging comic buffoon, all id, with a simmering rage bubbling under the surface – is here made flesh by Luke fucking Evans, a relatively scrawny specimen who you might remember waddling around the Hobbit films looking as if he was severely constipated.
Thankfully, Evans proves himself to be more than a one-trick pony, as his waddle in BATB suggests he’s finally managed to shit into his britches. His performance in this film represents a bizarre dichotomy. In the dialogue scenes, he’s utterly dreadful – gurning out surface-level facsimiles of “The Face for when I’m Angry” or “The Face for when I’m Scheming” with nothing behind his eyes – no soul, no presence, nothing. He’s like a department store mannequin – the clothes admittedly look great on him, but emotionally speaking he is utterly and completely hollow.
And yet, Evans proves himself to be a fine singer, able to perform without electronic aid, and he winningly contributes to the film’s only real show-stopper, the self-titled “Gaston” – although even this highlight comes across like a theme-park dinner theatre special where you spot one good actor struggling valiantly in a “I’m between professional gigs” situation.
The decade-long age gap between Evans and Watson lends an air of seemingly unintentional creepiness to the character – it’s certainly never referenced in the script or the performances. As it stands, Gaston is nowhere near as effective here as he is in the animated version.
Much brouhaha has been made of the Mouse House designating to include a gay character in this extended remix. LeFou, the lackey of Gaston, is here cast as a besotted batsman in the ball-park of Samwise Gamgee – loyal, dedicated, and perhaps just a little infatuated with his Frodo.
As played by The Book of Mormon‘s Josh Gad (also Frozen’s Olaf), LeFou’s vocal affectations veer wildly from continent to continent, but his muddled accent in no way diminishes from his obvious Broadway chops.
Sadly, the much celebrated “inclusive” nature of the film instead gives way to a Carry On Up the Etcetra style “Hilarious Closeted / Ashamed Gay”. In 20-fucking-17, watching a gay man “uproariously” struggle to admit that he’s gay , or indeed stifle his true feelings by claiming he’s merely “clingy” strikes this reviewer as more regressive and insulting than not having a gay character at all. The fact that he gets one 3 second cutaway to dance with a man simply stinks of pandering and politically correct shenanigans on the part of the one of the biggest private Corporations on the planet.
If LeFou is gay, let him be gay, for Jesus’ sake. The tired wink-wink-nudge-nudge that BATB 2017 indulges in has no place in a progressive society in this day and age. Out and proud or not at all. It’s one thing to have a gay character struggle to come out and be accepted (hello, Moonlight ), but to portray that struggle as the comedic relief in your white-woman-loves-a-talking-goat narrative is really just complete bollocks.
You can’t have your gay and eat it too, Disney. For shame!!
Okay, let’s just breathe for a second. Maybe get yourself a cup of tea, I realise this one is a big one, but hey I’ve been away a while and I wanted to make this worth the read.
Right, you back? Good.
What else is on the hitlist?
The original BATB had the most incredibly designed and realised collection of enchanted sidekicks – Lumiere the candlestick, Cogsworth the Clock, and Mrs. Potts the… uh… the pot.
As performed by Jerry Orbach, David Ogden Stiers and Angela God-damn Lansbury, these characters are rightfully remembered as charming, winning combinations of vocal talent and animator’s skill.
Here, sadly, the real-world setting means they must obey real-world physics and expectations, and so we are treated to the dull, drearily dish-water brown-coloured Lumiere as performed by noted accent master Ewan McGregor (SARCASM INTENSIFIES), stuffy Englishman Ian McKellen (SARCASM HE’S NOT STUFFY HE’S A FUCKING JOYFUL MAN STOP STIFLING HIM), and randomly cockney Emma Thompson (JUST GET “MURDER SHE WROTE” BACK YOU CLOWNS HOW DO YOU IMPROVE ON PERFECTION YOU CAN’T).
These previously expressive characters can never be as dynamic here as they were in ink-and-pencil form, and their rousing performance of Be Our Guest is here bastardised into a bizarre acid-trip flurry of plates and forks fucking themselves at the camera in a “3D IMAX Mark-Up” special that just reminded me of how much I’d rather be watching the original in 2-D.
Of course, it goes without saying that McGregor’s accent is horrendously insulting, especially as he’s the only French-accented person in this entirely French-set film – everybody else is a random mixture of American, British and everything in between. Admittedly, Jerry Orbach’s Lumiere also had an accent, but he didn’t even sound vaguely French so it was somehow less egregious. He just sounded weird. Not racist.
Joining the original gang for this go-round is a pointless organ voiced by… . Stanley Tucci!
Why is he in this film?!!? Is he alright? Someone ask Stanley Tucci if he’s alright.
As an aside, has anyone else seen the little-loved Disney Holiday special Beauty And The Beast : An Enchanted Christmas? It’s a strange off-shoot that’s neither sequel nor prequel, but an “inter-quel” set within the Stockholm Syndrome montage in the middle of Beauty and The Beast. The villain of that picture is an evil pipe organ voiced by TIM FUCKING CURRY.
That film, it should be said, went straight to VHS in the mid 90’s. Disney had class back then, shuffling its God-awful off-cuts into the back of your local Xtra-Vision / Blockbuster (delete as applicable), not yet having the utter gall to roll them out worldwide in a flurry of “Hooray GAY PEOPLE” histrionics. Needless to say, though, Stanley Tucci is no Tim Curry.
So, as we’ve seen thus far, this horrendous piece of celluloid terribly mishandles the things that made the original one of the five best films made in it’s respective year.
How does it fare with the new elements it deigns to cram sideways into the script?
Jesus Fucking Christ.
A hypothetical for you – if you were to take a modern hipster-cynic viewpoint of the ’91 BATB you grew up with, and then try to cack-handedly preempt those possible niggles, what issues would you highlight? Because this film tries desperately to answer questions no-one ever thought to ask of the original, and the result is confusing, infuriating and completely disheartening to watch. Let’s try and reason out these inexplicable additions.
“Hey! Why is the village all summery and sunny, while the Beast’s Castle is wintery and snowy?”
Real Answer : Because it’s an animated film and style counts for something?
Filmmaker’s Answer : Ha, no, fuck you, because in this film THE MAGIC MAKES SNOW HAPPEN and all the characters SAY THIS OUT LOUD WHENEVER POSSIBLE.
“Hey! Where did the Enchantress go?”
Real Answer : It doesn’t matter, it’s a fairytale and she’s an abstract concept.
Filmmaker’s Answer : She’s a hermit who never married and it could happen to you, Belle! Also she randomly helps Maurice even though at that point we don’t quite know who the fuck she is, and then she wanders slowly into the Castle in the climactic showdown thus completely undercutting any tension or danger inherent in that scene and her hair grows back (?) and she has to be there personally to blow the rose petals or fucking something because that’s certainly something the previous film got wrong, right?
“Hey! Did the Beast have parents?”
Real Answer : That’s not really pertinent.
Filmmaker’s Answer : Yes he did, his Dad was an awful prick, let’s have 3 lines of dialogue and a single sung line to explain that with a flashback to a young Prince that has absolutely no bearing on anything at all, ever.
“Hey! What happened to Belle’s Mother?”
Real Answer : Does it matter? Can’t she just be defined by her own actions??!?!?
Filmmaker’s Answer : It definitely matters, because y’see, Belle’s mother died of the plague despite the mainland European outbreak occurring in the 1300’s and yet everybody in this film quotes Shakespeare placing it roughly 300 years later than that because NOBODY EVEN LOOKED THAT UP!! NOBODY FUCKING LOOKED THAT UP. Belle finds a rose pendant that stirs memories of her mother, because even the simple concept of her liking flowers needs an awkwardly smashed-in backstory. Also, the Beast’s backstory involves a rose, so surely this means that… they… poetry… they both …. rose. THEY BOTH FLOWERS. ME WRITE SCROONPLAY.
“Hey! The Beast’s mirror in the original is kinda cool, I guess. Can we make that COOLIER?”
Real Answer : …. But…. Why?
Filmmaker’s Answer : So, the Beast has… a magical time-and-space-transporting… book.
No, seriously, The Beast has a magical book that lets him travel ANYWHERE, (except , y’know, away from the approaching pitchfork mob), and Belle uses it to go to her childhood home – sorry, her childhood WINDMILL – in Paris for the aforementioned cloying, unnecessary backstory.
However, this also means that when Belle uses the now utterly redundant magic mirror to see the villagers consigning her father to the asylum, she could use the book to go directly to him, but instead forces poor fucking Phillipe out into the wolf-infested forest for the third time in as many days.
That’s like trying to fry an egg by sticking it up your arse even though you just made rice on the hob in your kitchen ten minutes ago. Fucking Belle. Just… just use the fucking… I mean… you fucking … you fucking flute, ya.
“Hey! How come nobody in the village notices there’s a giant castle in the woods?”
Real Answer : It’s a fairytale, it’s just a castle! Please, can we please… can you just not…”
Filmmaker’s Answer : Part of the Beast’s Curse erases memories of the Castle and it’s servants, who have to live in the Cursed Castle, but the people married to the servants don’t live in the Castle or anything like that, that’d make too much sense.
See, the servants’ spouses live in the village … for some… for some fucking reason… and then at the end of the film the guy with the mutton chops who had admittedly been confusingly prominent for a featured extra is actually CHIP’S FUCKING DAD AND HIS LIFE FOR THE PAST DECADE UNDER THE CURSE HAS BEEN A LIE!!! What a happy ending. His mental breakdown will surely be one for the ages.
Seriously what the fucking JESUS FUCK are these story choices? I still can’t get my head around the ramifications. Does Belle not remember the Beast and the Castle then, like everyone else, when the spell is broken? As in “Oh yeah, you’re that prick in the Castle, I hate you now”? Or… is her memory unaffected because she lived there during the curse? When did she move from Anachronistically Plague-Riddled Paris to the village? Post-Curse? ARGH!!!!
Why would you make these things up if they only raise further confusing questions?!?!?!?!
These bizarre additions actively ruin both this film, and the previous version of the film. It’s almost surreal in it’s incompetence.
She did, yeah.
She does, yeah.
That’s absolutely right. She picks up the fucking plague-infested rose trinket… and brings it back to give to Maurice!
Those… those fucking LEMONS are all gonna get the plague. Belle has doomed them all.
Every single character we meet in this film dies of the plague.
Thank God for that. It’s no less than they deserve.