Beauty and the Beast
Directed by Bill Condon
I enjoyed the new, live action version of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” but there was a moment about halfway through when it occurred to me that I was essentially watching “Stockholm Syndrome: The Musical.” For all of the other, often awkward, jokes about a love affair between a young woman and something approximating a minotaur, it’s also a romance between a prisoner and her captor.
In an odd coincidence, a week or so after watching “Beauty and the Beast,” I watched “Camp X-Ray” on Netflix, the 2014 film starring Kristen Stewart as a guard who forms a friendship with an inmate at Guantanamo Bay. There’s less romance in that story, but still two people, each trapped in their own way, in a strange and unyielding circumstance.
I can’t honestly recall if I’ve watched the entirety of the animated Disney film in a single sitting, but I’ve seen or heard enough of it, enough times to recognize much of the musical content. However, I’m not familiar enough with it to be able to accurately identify each of the new scenes and songs – but it’s worth noting that the new film is 45 minutes longer than the animated predecessor it supposedly recreates. It doesn’t feel especially overlong, but clocking in at more than two hours does make it a lengthy proposition for small children.
Emma Watson is solid as Belle, albeit a singing and dancing version of the book-loving and heroic Hermione Granger, and she’s supported by a strong cast that includes Dan Stevens (as the Beast) and Kevin Kline (as her Father). Of course, a “live action” film that is largely populated by bewitched household objects and furniture is still extensively animated and the film benefits greatly by additional cast members who are heard more than seen, and even more A-list, including Emma Thompson, Ian McKellen, and Ewan McGregor (seen primarily as a teapot, clock, and candlestick, respectively).
As for the apparently (still in 2017) controversial content about one character who might be presumed to be gay or bisexual, it’s little more than a look in an eye and lasts about as long as it takes to read this sentence.
I’ve heard positive comments from others who were greater fans of the 1991 Disney film, and the new film is very well produced and performed, but the length alone might be a limiting factor for parents of the youngest potential audience members.
Going into its second weekend, “Kong: Skull Island” also features an odd fondness between a large beast and a young woman – and, remarkably, one of the worst such relationships of any King Kong movie. But that’s hardly material in such a dull and poorly realized film, which we can only hope isn’t an indicator of the quality of all the creature features that seem destined to follow it (stay until the very end of the credits).
John Goodman and Samuel L. Jackson lead a group of explorers to a predictably uncharted Pacific island only to make the kinds of awful decisions that cause us to want to see them die quickly enough that we won’t have to suffer their presence any longer than is absolutely necessary. For example, they first encounter the giant ape as they approach it in a group of helicopters. And you’d think, after the initial surprise of watching colleagues swatted out of the sky they might fly further away from it – but no, that would make too much sense. Just as with a group standing on a boat that see somebody plucked into the sky by a flying pterodactylesque creature, only to continue to stand out in the open rather than ducking under the superstructure for some level of cover.
This Apocalypse Kong mashup manages to tarnish the memories of multiple earlier projects while also achieving what a couple of weeks earlier would have seemed impossible: It stopped “The Great Wall” from being this year’s worst film about Westerners exploring Eastern lands where enormous walls have been built to keep out giant, awkward lizardy things.