“There might be something there that wasn’t there before…” has never rung truer than tonight when I saw Bill Condon’s gargantuan fantasy musical telling of Disney’s rendition of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.
Confession time, my favorite of the Katzenberg era of Disney Classics is easily BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, but then that has a lot to do with the fact, that BEAUTY AND THE BEAST was my favorite Fairy Tale. I’ve been attached to it since my parents read it to me, by showing me the subtitled version of Cocteau’s BELLE ET LA BETE.
For years I thought of this story as a metaphor for my life. I was definitely no Gaston. I wanted to be Luke Skywalker – out on my ranch, but my body seemed cursed to grow in places I did not wish to grow. Worked at the gym, did diets, but that always left me feeling angry. I decided to own who I was. Sure, I’d love better health. Sure, I’ve worked hard for it. But until I met my wife, I was pretty sure I was destined for the angry at the world Beast within & out. It’s the way Belle begins to wonder if she could love this “thing”. That women could be about more than abs and chiseled good looks.
Still later, I realized that you can not act the part of a beast in life either. Being a rage freak, allowing the base emotions… well, it’s a sure way to keep the Belles out of your life. You can learn some pretty good things paying attention to fairy tales. That it is the soul we cultivate that makes us worth happiness. But, I always figured I was always the beast.
The Disney animated film… when it hit. It was so fucking cool. I mean, rumors out of Cannes written about in Magazines and written in brief in the papers… Pre-Websites… but there was tales of a Work In Progress screening of BEAUTY & THE BEAST. That was cool. Disney likes to run a tight ship. The process was never laid so bare and beautiful before. I was dying to see it. A friend eventually got a Laserdisc, I think, of it that we watched a whole lot. Seeing Glen Keane’s rough animations of the BEAST… that’s still my favorite version of the character… more than even though if we’re talking favorite delivered optical version of the character – I’d go with Jean Marais… that Cocteau version is fucking voodoo magic mon.
So – Bill Condon… a man with roots to Universal Horror with his brilliant GODS AND MONSTERS… and musicals with CHICAGO & DREAMGIRLS… and Romance with GODS AND MONSTERS. And I guess those TWILIGHT flicks. How was he going to deliver?
Being honest, I went into this film after sitting front row center for Leonard Maltin’s interview with Frank Oz… Then in the same spot for Dr. Buzz Aldrin. 15 ft from a man that came back from the moon. SUPERHEROES right in front of me being fucking genius. GENIUS. The sheer elation of Oz talking about EVERYTHING… Oz, Muppets, Yoda, LITTLE SHOP, DIRTY ROTTEN SCANDALS, the beginning… life lessons learned from Oz though – it was like the end of the GRINCH WHO STOLE CHRISTMAS where your heart and capacity for love grows till your pupils are radiating hearts of love. It was that. So that. Buzz Aldrin speaks Harry Science. THE DREAM. The big pitch. If we’re going to Mars, send the buildings first, the robotic 3D printers, Do it up right. “Explore or Expire!” – This man walked on the moon. I’ve been to the Smithsonian. Read the books, the old LIFE and TIME Magazines that Dad sold in his shop. And checking out Buzz’s VR thing… JUST WOW! And I got to meet David Goelz, GONZO… and I named my Gecko GONZO and gave him plastic chickens to play with – and I totally became 6-11 shaking that man’s hand and HOLY SHIT THAT WAS ALL THE COOL!
Ok – So – I was clearly so bleeding happy that my brain was flooding in happy brain chemistry caused by awe, inspiration, supreme nostalgia, revelatory energy from these people – and yeah. Just a real great great great feeling.
Loved just being RIGHT THERE! After the two panels Father Geek and I sat down – looked at the schedule for the day at SXSW – and nothing seemed happy. Great movies, sure, that’s par for the course at SXSW, but when you get a mood like this – and you remember an outside the festival Press / Radio Promo screening for a Disney Princess movie musical by Bill Condon. I chose that.
I’ll admit it, I hope for the best on Bill’s movies. Known him a lot of years. And where we are with him is oh so far from Sundance screening of GODS & MONSTERS… but yet… here he is… doing the Disney GODS & MONSTERS thing… musically.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is great big gothic romance that insinuates Beast Sex at some level. There’s something purely about the love of kindred souls finding one another that is at play.
The BEAST in the trailers hasn’t been doing it for me all that much. Mainly because we’ve gotten the annoyed brooding dick Beast pretty much alone. When you see him having awkward lovely conversations during the get to know each other stage. It’s magic… at least for me. I don’t tend to get hung up on processes. I appreciate what the process is attempting, let them run with it unless it feels like rubbing alcohol in IVs piping through my body. And I need to disengage.
HOWEVER – that ain’t gonna happen here. Because the SOUL of the BEAST in the original Disney film wasn’t the voice or the animation… it was the score. That magic score – and it’s been tweaked and rearranged a bit, but it’s there. And what – I’ve sung these songs about 200 times between my sister and wife?
And that quote at the top of the review.. There’s new songs working with Tim Rice – and nothing became my favorite new song, but I loved hearing them new in the film and then again over that pretty End Credits sequence.
What else is new from the Animated film? The way the magic works is… different . Everything is flushed out in an exquisite way. The scope of the curse is way larger. There’s incremental curse changes that occur to characters – that give an increasing sense of impending doom and desperation to our time in the castle.
Kevin Kline is Crazy Ol Maurice… but he’s crazy like we love creative genius dad’s. When you see the thing he is working on and creating – as we meet his character – it’s HUG! Maurice can make magic toys. Not really magic, but that craftsmanship you see that just makes clockwork automation from bygone eras just feel… MAGIC. Guillermo Del Toro will love Kline in this movie. Promise ya.
I didn’t know what I thought about the Beast casting of DOWNTON ABBEY’s Matthew Crawley aka Dan Stevens– could he be better than Texas born Robby Benson? Is that possible? Before you answer, did you see ICE CASTLES? No, then hush. BTW – I don’t dig much on the competition that we put artists through. There’s a definite difference in vocals here. Dan’s got a real neat sound to his pipes that I got caught up in. Maybe it is his Surrey-ness, all them Fox chases. But seeing him as a pretentious dick to some old lady that gave him a rose. Surely no. WAIT TILL YOU SEE HIS BALLROOM MAKEUP for that scene. It’s BLACK SWAN crazy and I dig the hell out it.
Then, when Dan is driving a digital BEAST – his voice when singing kills me. Just love it. Maybe because after the HARRY POTTER films and THIS IS THE END, I’m a huge Emma Watson fan – and the idea of her being a bookworm involved in a supernatural horny beast… I’m invested. And I know I’ll be singing to this movie in 3D in my Living Room and I can’t wait.
Wait? You don’t think I’ve been very positive on the film so far? Well, I can fix that.
Chip and Mrs. Potts… played by Nathan Mack and Emma Thompson… Ok, so you know what Emma sings here and if you don’t love Emma Thompson, you haven’t been paying attention. She’s got a grand voice, but she also has the capacity to blush her cheeks vocally as she sings… Seriously, listen to her sing, doesn’t sound like she is blush flirting while singing? The actual animated Tea cup and Tea Pot – utterly charming and magic. I mean… yeah. There was a point with Chip where I actually held my breath for like 10 seconds in concern. That was being utterly enraptured by the convincing magic of the VFX.
I wasn’t questioning the effects in this film. Maybe the first couple minutes of the Beast – but… that look changes over the movie. And as it changes you’re probably going to fall utterly in love with him. I did.
Ok, so how about LUMIERE and COGSWORTH played by Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellen. FUCKING WOW MAN. Ewan’s Lumiere is pure awesome. Just pure awesome. I mean. Emma Watson is playing Belle as a girl from a small town, with a church library of like 12 books other than the Bible – and she left Paris as a Baby, so – BE OUR GUEST – Watson’s face watching Ewan’s Lumiere… OH HELL YEAH! McKellen’s COGSWORTH… I want one. Disney needs to get Nanotech Cogsworths with full functioning Ian McKellen personalities and voice work and in the homes. He’s perfect.
One of the huge concerns I had for the film was Luke Evans’ GASTON… while being excited for Josh Gad’s LeFOU. Could Luke Evans be that charismatically overbearingly great. GASTON is a monster in the cartoon, but one of the best Cads in the history of such characters. Bill Condon not only gets a charismatic ALPHA-grade SIMIAN with Rabies… but Luke Evans doing the Hunting Lodge number with Josh Gad – OH YES. Gad’s LEFOU is a cherubic manic unrequited love / GASTON FANBOY. He doesn’t necessarily go along with everything GASTON does, but he’s also not going to really abandon him. Then there’s KILL THE BEAST number – and OH HELL YEAH, it’s a real torches and pitchforks KILL THE MONSTER parade. But with that great song.
How about magic musical numbers… I mentioned BE MY GUEST… in 3D… in this film. It’s pretty damn spectacular. Totally Busby Berkeley inspired, just like the original Disney Animated film – only now. Wow. PRETTY COLORS WHIRLING – RESISTENCE TO FILM WANING… SO HAPPY – RESERVE PLANE TICKETS TO DISNEYLAND – DONE – ok, so yeah, that BE MY GUEST number was something wow.
The big ballroom number, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST… is stunning in 3D. Really surreal in a grand pretty way. By this point, the connection between Emma Watson and Downton Beast is very real and you see it in how the couple regard one another when the other doesn’t know they’re being seen. Belle’s mindgasm at the Library is a thing of joy. Then there’s the different magic. I like every ounce of different magic. The things that happen… JOY.
At all times the different magic reveals a suffering of a character. When granted a wish, the wish becomes tragically illuminating and suddenly she understands everything about her dad – and it is powerful stuff. It made me love Belle even more.
All new songs were instantly intriguing and slightly strange because I felt my brain thinking – Do I like this? Until I shut that noise out and listened. The Kevin Kline song. Sigh. EVERMORE – really like.
Then there’s just the beauty of every second of the film. Every second. There’s not a 24th of a second of this film that doesn’t make me smile. But I do love musicals and this is a very robust musical adaptation of that original film. There is something there that wasn’t there before. I toldja. And though it’s all different in an infinite number of human ways – it’s all quite a hoot! If you don’t love Josh Gad’s LeFou – it’s you! He’s irrepressible. He reminds of Pepe LePew in a way – and that just tickled me something fierce. Sometimes – I swear Chuck Jones animated Gad’s face. You’ll see what I mean, he’s more animated than anything in the original. And that is sick fucking impressive.
OH… and folks… We all need to sing a lot more these days, this is a great one to tune up with.
I want Ewan McGregor singing dancing candlestick – that’d be way too fucking cool. I mean… Just watch. Hell listen to his BE OUR GUEST performance, it’s online. Shut your eyes and imagine. It’s better than that.
Just like in the cartoon, I’m disappointed when he turns into Downton Abbey accident in waiting. Oh yeah, HA HA Disney, you cast the Prince that wound up in a Wheelchair. Mock me with your casting, yes, I know I’m a Beast. GIGGLE.
I can’t help but notice these things. It’s how I roll. Seriously though, it’s a big sweeping movie musical that you mostly know but like you’ve never seen er before! I mean, it’s so easy to fall into that. Beast is way cooler than fucking Prince Charming, who just turned Snow White into the Zombie Princess of the Disney Gals.
I’ve listened to the soundtrack twice while writing this review. Every song is newly produced and it may seem a bit odd at first, I gave in. It swept me away, made me constantly think – YOU ARE NOT IN YOUR LIVING ROOM – DO NOT SING!!!! REPEAT DO NOT SING!!! And sometimes, lip-synching would be caught seconds from belting one out.
I also came home and put the Animated one on to sing to. Two ways to celebrate this work. To go with Christophe Gans and Jean Cocteau’s. I can’t wait for SXSW to end to go see this with Yoko. She’s either gonna love it or think I’m a weird freak… again. Oh shit, I’m actually crying to EVERMORE right now. Oh I’m doomed on this one. Man admits feelings – stomp assassinate kill. Heh.
KILL THE BEAST is where Luke Evans just rages that song – and Josh Gad’s LeFou being reason is just the best. Fool no more. Nicely done. As I listen and playing the movie in my mind – I just was in absolute love. The Big Castle fight? FREAKY AS FUCK – I mean, as a cartoon – it makes sense. Like this – it’s like THE HAUNTING gone fucking insane! I mean. You’re simple in this time. Shit like this would have you living without objects. Traumatic awesome insane Fantasy action.
OH – The Wolf fight is freaky. Good stuff. Bill’s got Wolf experience though. Way better here. On repeat viewings I want to see if I can notice the petal falling changes better. It’s magic work. So happy with it.
Keep it cool,