Disney’s 1991 animated version of Beauty and the Beast will always hold a special place in my heart. It came out the same year I graduated from high school, and I really identified with Belle. Not only was I a fellow bookworm, but I too had a thirst for adventure and seeing new places. When she sang, “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere; I want it more than I can tell,” it was like she was singing for me, too.
Not to mention, for anyone who loves to read, who can resist the Beast’s awesome library?
Ahem, anyway, last year, when Disney made their live action Cinderella, I wasn’t sure what to expect. There have been numerous live action incarnations of the story of Cinderella, but this was, by far, the best one I had seen. It was truly a gorgeous movie both in its cinematography and in the beautiful lesson in forgiveness it shows.
So, I was super excited when I saw Disney was doing the same with my favorite, Beauty and the Beast. I’ll admit, I might have squealed just a little when I saw they had cast Emma Watson as Belle. She was the perfect choice.
Then I read the blurb about Disney introducing homosexuality into the classic story line. Everyone online had an opinion about it, and it turned into kind of a hot topic in some circles. I even read one post lecturing on the moral depravity of the actual story of Beauty and the Beast as it promotes bestiality. Um, okay. I think someone totally missed the moral of that fairy tale.
By this time, I had already bought tickets for my son and I to see it. (Got a GREAT deal through Groupon and scored two tickets for less than $7!). My son is almost 16, so I thought we’d go and see for ourselves.
So, here is my review of the movie. (This contains a few spoilers so be aware of that before you read further!)
The Things I Really Liked
This is a classic retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Those who are fans of the animated Disney version from 1991 will not be disappointed. The story line sticks very closely to that movie with a few minor changes which didn’t take away from the movie at all and made the story richer.
This version, however, gave more of a nod to the original French fairy tale. If you have read that fairy tale, you will know that what actually caused the father, Maurice, to get on the wrong side of the Beast was picking a rose for his daughter Belle. That minor crime lands Maurice in the Beast’s dungeon. I really liked that the movie goes back to its French fairy tale roots.
The other thing I thought this movie did better than the animated one was to explain why nobody in a village only a few miles away has any idea that a PRINCE that has been turned into a BEAST is in a giant castle and all of his servants have been bewitched. I mean really? Nobody noticed that? In this new version, that backstory is explained in a very satisfactory manner. (I hate plot holes, so I felt very happy with this change!)
In the live action version, the Beast’s character is much more fully drawn. He has some great one liners, and we get to know him a bit better than in the animated version. The CGI on this was very good, as well. His transformation is all the more poignant in non-animated form.
Another great addition is an explanation of what happened to Belle’s mother. Since in most Disney movies, the mothers are missing and there is never an explanation, this addition of some background really helped to round out the story. Not only did we get to know Belle and her father better, but we start to see the Beast in a new light.
There were also a few new songs in this version. They were very enjoyable. My 15 year old has been walking around singing the Beast’s solo all week, so I guess he enjoyed the addition of the new songs too!
The Elephant In the Theater
Honestly, I really enjoyed this version, and there wasn’t anything that stood out as jarring. Going into it, I knew that Disney themselves were saying there was a “genuinely gay moment.” I had no idea what that meant exactly, and I have to admit to some trepidation.
Supposedly, LeFou is in love with Gaston. One of the producers of the movie said, “LeFou doesn’t know if he wants to be Gaston or kiss Gaston.” Another review I read before I went to the movie, said that some of LeFou’s actions make it somewhat obvious he likes Gaston as more than just a friend.
However, although it is clear that LeFou is a devoted sidekick and he does come across as a bit flamboyant at times, I didn’t feel that it was obvious that the character was supposedly gay and longing after Gaston. If I hadn’t read the original article stating that LeFou was supposed to be gay, I’m not sure if the movie would have given me that idea or not. It’s hard to say, since I knew going in so I couldn’t help viewing the movie through that lens.
There were only two moments in the movie that were at all questionable, in my opinion. The first happens when the villagers storm the castle, and all the various castle occupants fight back. When the wardrobe whips a bunch of dresses at three village men and they end up dressed as women, two of the men yell and run away. But the third guy, smiles and then minces down the stairs.
The other moment comes at the very end. Everyone is dancing and people are whirling around. LeFou and the character that enjoyed his makeover end up dancing together. They smile at each other. It is literally less than 10 seconds of film. A small child would probably laugh and think it was funny that a boy got stuck with another boy with which to dance.
My Overall View
Overall, the movie was excellent and was very well done. Young children probably won’t pick up on anything that is obviously homosexual, and I never felt that there was an agenda being pushed. If your child is a bit older, they might. Then again, my son’s friend watched the movie, and he had no idea when the movie was over. He’s 16.
One warning for parents of small children is that since this is a live action movie, the scenes are a bit more intense and dramatic, which might scare younger viewers.
One of the things I love about the story of Beauty and the Beast is it is one of transformation and redemption. The Beast, who once was a handsome yet very unkind prince, had his exterior transformed to reflect his heart – beastly. In a beautiful twist, the Beast finds love changing him, so his face no longer reflects his heart, and his beauty is hidden inside an ugly shell.
At the same time, the village hunk, Gaston, never changes. His handsome exterior hides an ugly heart, and the only one he ever seems to love is himself.
The fairy tale is not a spiritual one, but it can remind me of some spiritual lessons. The first being that I need to remember to look deeper than someone’s exterior, and that even someone who is seems snarly has more to offer. It’s a big reminder that while man can look at the outside, only God sees the heart.
Finally, this story reminds us that love is transformative in so many ways. Like the Beast, we are ugly inside and out until God’s love gets a hold of us. When it does, it can truly change our whole world and those around us.
Have any of you seen Beauty and Beast? What did you think? I’d love to hear about it!