Review: LeFou shines in 'Beauty and the Beast'

Marcus Goh
Contributor
Beauty and the Beast (Walt Disney Pictures)

 

Secret ending? No.

Running time: 129 minutes (~2.25 hours)

Beauty and the Beast (Walt Disney Pictures)

“Beauty and the Beast” is an American romantic musical in English. It is inspired by the 1991 animated film version, and is based on the original fairy tale of the same name.

The film sees a beautiful girl being trapped in a castle with talking furniture. She eventually falls in love with the master of the castle, who is a hideous beast, but several obstacles stand in the way of the couple.

“Beauty and the Beast” is directed by Bill Condon, with a screenplay by Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos. It stars Emma Watson (Belle), Dan Stevens (Beast), Luke Evans (Gaston), Kevin Kline (Maurice), Josh Gad (LeFou), Ewan McGregor (Lumiere), Ian McKellen (Cogsworth), Stanley Tucci (Maestro Cadenza), Emma Thompson (Mrs Potts), Aura McDonald (Madam de Garderobe), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Plumette), and Nathan Mack (Chip). It is rated PG.

Beauty and the Beast (Walt Disney Pictures)

It’s difficult to watch “Beauty and the Beast” without comparing it to Disney’s animated version in 1991, especially since both films incorporate the use of talking furniture. Inevitably, a judgment will be made about which is better. However, they are fairly different products, and should be judged on their individual merits, rather than one as an extension of another. This “Beauty and the Beast” is a good film in its own right.

Beauty and the Beast (Walt Disney Pictures)

Highlights

LeFou steals the show

If you’re outraged by LeFou’s (Josh Gad) inclinations, let me say that it is presented in an ambiguous fashion throughout the film. After all, he does aid Gaston (Luke Evans) in wooing Belle (Emma Watson). In fact, LeFou’s flair for the overdramatic is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the movie. In a film where everyone is straightforward and predictable, LeFou adds life in a way only LeFou can.

Beauty and the Beast (Walt Disney Pictures)

Elaborate backstories and motivations

Beast (Dan Stevens) is given a backstory that tells us more of how he came to be, as well as giving us clearer insight into his motivations. In fact, his backstory is what helps us root for him, because we learn that there’s more than meets the eye to the character. Belle’s relationship with her father is also given additional layers that help us empathise with both characters. This is what elevates “Beauty and the Beast” beyond just a remake of a children’s classic into a film that’s appropriate for adults too.

Beauty and the Beast (Walt Disney Pictures)

Grittier tale

“Beauty and the Beast” is definitely a darker tale than earlier renditions, and the Gothic qualities of Beast’s castle is played up to a larger extent. There’s also Gaston’s characterisation, which shows that he’s not just an arrogant blowhard — he’s capable of going to any lengths to get what he wants. It’s not the “Beauty and the Beast” of our childhood. But don’t worry, it never goes overboard.

Beauty and the Beast (Walt Disney Pictures)

Letdowns

Not enough anthropomorphisation 

It’s uncertain what impression we are supposed to get from the non-human supporting cast. They are items of furniture with several human elements, rather than being humanoids with furniture elements incorporated into them. It’s a significant difference because they are not human enough for us to consider them as living, sentient beings. They border on being alien and ominous, but their actions and dialogue don’t seem to reflect that aspect of their appearance. Perhaps anthropomorphising them more would have been more desirable.

Beauty and the Beast (Walt Disney Pictures)

Struggle between bright colours and Gothic setting

Beast’s castle is dark and shadowy, with irregular and unidentifiable shapes jutting out everywhere. Then you have the talking furniture characters, who are clearly meant to offer visual contrast to the darkness of the castle. The problem is that the film doesn’t know how to cope with lighting both the shadowy setting and the bright objects at the same time. You end up with vastly different looks for the castle from scene to scene, with no real rhyme or reason for it.

Beauty and the Beast (Walt Disney Pictures)

“Beauty and the Beast” is a darker update of the fairy tale, but it won’t be a classic.

Should you watch this at weekday movie ticket prices? Yes.

Should you watch this at weekend movie ticket prices? If you were a fan of 1991’s animated “Beauty and the Beast”.

Score: 3.5/5

“Beauty and the Beast” opens in cinemas:
– 16 March, 2017 (Singapore)
– 16 March, 2017 (Philippines)

Beauty and the Beast (Walt Disney Pictures)

Marcus Goh is a Singapore television scriptwriter, having written for Police & Thief, Incredible Tales, Crimewatch, and Point of Entry. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find him on social media as Optimarcus and on his site. The views expressed are his own.

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