A Teen and Her Dad on Beauty & the Beast
Bruce Fretts: When I decided to review Disney’s new live-action Beauty and the Beast, I asked my 15-year-old daughter, Olive, to be my guest… see what I did there?
Olive: (already exasperated) Yes, I saw what you did there.
Bruce: I did it because when you were four years old, I would put you to bed every night and we would listen to…
Olive: A cassette tape of the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack.
Bruce: I was hoping the reboot would re-evoke those feelings of warmth, coziness, joy and love. But I felt none of that. I hated this movie so much. Did you hate it as much as I did?
Olive: I didn’t totally hate it, but it’s a lot creepier when it’s real people.
Bruce: I just think it didn’t need to be made. It added nothing, and it subtracted a lot.
Olive: It had its moments, but it’s just weird when the candle has this face coming out of metal. It took the fun out of it. It was like, “Ew!”
Bruce: It’s not really live action because a lot of the characters are still animated. So what’s the point of doing it again?
Bruce: You’re a bigger Harry Potter fan than I am, so maybe you appreciate Emma Watson more than I do, but I thought she was bland.
Olive: I didn’t think she added anything. It was like, “Well, there she is. They cast someone who was exactly like we thought they would be.” I’m not the biggest Emma Watson fan. She definitely has her issues.
Bruce: What are her issues?
Olive: I used to love her when I was little and she was Hermione Granger and whatever, but now there’s this whole issue of being a white feminist. Do you know that whole thing? She used to criticize, like, Beyonce and Kim Kardashian and say, “The way to feminism isn’t by showing your body. You have to be modest.” Now recently she did a photo shoot where she was partially nude, and when people criticized her for it, she was like, “Well, I should be able to show my body.” Everyone was like, “What? Emma! Remember what you said a couple of years ago?
Bruce: So why does that make her a white feminist?
Olive: Do you know what white feminism is?
Olive: Do you know what intersectional feminism is?
Bruce: Not really.
Olive: This is a whole other thing, but intersectional feminism is basically when you respect all the realms of feminism, like women of color and trans women and people who are femme. White feminism is when you only see it as cis-gender women who aren’t of color. Emma Watson is widely pronounced as a white feminist. She’s trying to come back from it now, but it does jar my perspective on her because she was Hermione, this very powerful female role model, especially for the Harry Potter generation. Seeing her be kind of anti-feminist, it was like, “Aaah, don’t do that!”
Bruce: See, I’m learning things from you. Then Dan Stevens, who’s the Beast, is boring. When he turns into a human, he has Fabio hair.
Olive: It’s a little disappointing.
Bruce: It’s Blandy & the Bland. I also thought the film was too dark. The castle is supposed to be shadowy, but the whole movie is gray and brown and made me sleepy.
Olive: I heard you snoring at one point. It was so embarrassing.
Bruce: It was dank and depressing.
Olive: Yeah, it didn’t have a very good mood.
Bruce: It jumped all over the place. Sometimes it was a musical and when it wasn’t, it was boring. Then at the end, it became slapsticky, then it became an action movie.
Olive: I turned my phone on 30 minutes before the movie was over to check the time. It felt like it had been going on for a while.
Bruce: It’s a long movie! It’s 129 minutes. The cartoon was like 90 minutes.
Olive: I was like, “Where is the climax?” Because obviously I know this story inside and out. I was like, “Damn, it’s been a long time.” I was waiting, like “Tick tock!” Then it happened really fast and they were in love, but then it took a long time for the objects to turn into people. The pacing was really weird.
Bruce: I also didn’t believe that Beauty and the Beast fell in love. It was like, he stopped putting his face in his soup, so then she fell for him.
Olive: I thought that part was okay, but it’s just creepier when it’s real people.
Bruce: I felt like the cartoon characters were more three-dimensional. This felt very technical, and the original was hand-drawn. And the voice actors in the original, like Jerry Orbach and Angela Lansbury, were much better than Ewan McGregor and Emma Thompson. So are you familiar with the gay controversy about this movie?
Olive: With Josh Gad?
Bruce: Yes, Le Fou through the whole movie has a crush on Gaston.
Olive: Oh, really? I didn’t know that. At the end, they had him dancing with a guy and it’s like, “Oh, he’s gay!” But then the movie ends.
Bruce: That’s what people are calling the “gay moment,” which is being censored in some countries. I thought Josh Gad kind of overplayed the character.
Olive: When you cast Josh Gad, it’s always that character. He’s going to be that silly guy who does stupid things. Josh Gad is just like that.
Bruce: But if the gay character is the silly, stupid one, that’s not necessarily positive.
Olive: I think the movie was pretty good about having a diverse cast. The dance scene isn’t a sea of white people. And I was glad they had a nod to homosexuality. If it was needed in Le Fou, I don’t know, since he’s the character they’re making fun of the entire movie, but he does have an arc, which is good, and making him gay is important. But I don’t know if it’s a positive representation fully.
Bruce: I will say this: I liked Kevin Kline as Belle’s dad. He started out doing musicals like The Pirates of Penzance and it was good to see him back in a musical.
Olive: I don’t really know that guy. He was lovable but I wasn’t like, “He’s the best!”
Bruce: Maybe I was bringing more associations from his earlier roles. I believed the father-daughter relationship much more than any other in the movie. You didn’t feel like it was kind of like our father-daughter relationship?
Olive: No, Pop.
Bruce: Well, the movie’s going to make a ton of money, but I just want to put it out there that people should go back and watch the original and not waste their money on this unnecessary version that is less animated in every way than the cartoon.
Olive: Go see it if you want to see it. It wasn’t awful. I wasn’t disgusted by the movie. But don’t go out of your way to see it. I’m indifferent.
Bruce: I agree with the angry mob: “Kill the Beast!” Or at least this one.