Once upon a time in a land far, far away (okay, a town in the South Island to be precise). I took myself - yes, alone - to the cinema on a rainy Friday afternoon. The movie of my choice was the live action remake of the Disney animated classic, Beauty and the Beast.
I purchase my ticket and refreshments. Always the same trim flat white, extra hot (I love how you can get coffee in NZ cinemas, very civilised) and wee blue bag of m&ms - it has to be the blue ones.
I deliberate over a very sparkly promotional reusable drink holder emblazoned with Beauty & the Beast, but I remind myself that I am not a six year old child, no matter how much I want it! I have a bit of an internal battle with myself. I turn into Gollum around sparkly, shiny things – my precious. I walk away without the reusable cup but I am still a little jealous of the kids who will no doubt enjoy drinking from it.
I settle down in my comfy seat in a fairly empty cinema - the screening was during school hours. I opted out of the 3D version as I had felt nauseous the whole way through Avatar in 3D (3 hours of blue people flying at you will make most people feel sick). I have the whole row to myself, and as no one is sitting in front of me I can pretend I have a private screening. The audience is comprised of women of varying ages. The lights dim and I feel myself relax; no amount of Netflix or Lightbox can replace the enjoyment I get out of sitting in a dark cinema being entertained by the big screen. I will watch anything really, except horror. I have too vivid an imagination for that.
There is still a stigma about going to the cinema on your own, but generally I prefer it. No-one to distract from the action. If people are with me I wonder if they are bored or I end up just gauging their reaction to what is going on, and their fidgeting gets on my nerves. So yes if you are reading this and you feel that you can’t go to the cinema on your own. Just do it. Nobody gives a stuff.
The movie begins in typical Disney musical fashion; we get a first glimpse of Emma Watson as Belle. I still can’t make up my mind if I liked her in it or not. She has a girl next door quality that I find quite bland and I kept expecting Harry Potter to appear at any moment and for her to reprise her role as Hermione Granger as the Beasts castle was quite reminiscent of the eerie, gloomy Hogwarts.
Belle has been updated; she even wears a modern ear cuff (surely Emma Watson had some say in this as she is often seen sporting up to date ear adornment). It was quite interesting to notice a Hollywood actress with frown lines. Obviously as she is only 26 she doesn’t need botox, but we are so used to seeing perfectly smooth skin.
There was certainly artistic license taken with her ball gown, as it does not quite fit the historical time frame but hey, it’s Disney and they want modern little girls or boys to whine until their parents buy them Disney memorabilia.
She does prove to be quite the fearless role model for children though. Tying sheets together to escape the hairy beast. Fighting off wolves. But then she succumbs to Stockholm syndrome after seeing the Beasts library. It won me over too. I would have set up home with a hairy, grumpy, disfigured guy with atrocious table manners (similar to a lot of men) too if he offered me that library. I must admit to being a little underwhelmed until we end up at the Beasts castle. This is where I begin to really enjoy it.
I loved all the CGI and special effects that made the enchanted objects come to life. Such as Lumiere, the candlestick voiced by Ewan McGregor. We grew up a very short distance from each other, and I have even been in his Grannies sweetie shop - If only we had met at the local ice rink. It could have been me, Mrs McGregor, but no he had to go and marry some beautiful French actress. Now, as much as I love Ewan, you would think having access to a real French accent he would have been spot on, but he sounds like a cross between Rene in “Hello Hello” and Manuel in “Fawlty Towers”, with a smattering of a central Scotland drawl. But his one saving grace is he can sing (see Moulin Rouge) and he did a great job of the “Be Our Guest” number. If you want to see Ewan at his very best, check out his reprisal of Renton in Trainspotting 2. Also in cinemas now.
I really enjoyed Cogsworth the mantle clock, superbly voiced by Sir Ian McKellen (what a voice it is) and Mrs Potts the teapot, played affectionately by Emma Thompson. There are some lovely moments with Chip her teacup son.
For me the outstanding performances were from Luke Evans, who plays Gaston, and Josh Gad who plays his trusty sidekick, Le Fou - Disney’s first outwardly gay character (about blimming time I say). If gay stereotypes are to be believed, Disney musicals have quite the following. It has caused controversy from Alabama to Russia with it being given a 16R. It has a PG rating in New Zealand. Having seen the movie I find this to be quite unbelievable in 2017! Although throughout the movie the adoration the character Le Fou has for the narcissistic beefcake Gaston is evident. It is not until the end you see proof of Le Fou’s preferences (I won’t spoil it for you, but it made me smile).
Last but not least - the Beast played by Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens. When we are first introduced to the Prince, I did think he could give a drag queen a lesson or two in makeup application, and his sparkly costumes would give Lady Ga Ga a run for her money. I admit to preferring him as the beast - he was just a bit wet as the Prince, and I think Belle would have agreed -, she does ask him, when he transforms back into the baby faced prince, if he has ever thought of growing a beard? I think she secretly preferred him as the hairy, gruff beast (I know a few women who have that preference).
This movie is far from beastly, but I will have to wait to be suitable impressed by Emma Watson. I am sure 6 year old girls across the land will disagree with me concerning Emma. She gave up the lead role in LA LA LAND - and potentially an Oscar - to star in Beauty and the Beast. It is too early in her career to know if that was the right choice.
At just over 2 hours it is quite lengthy, but after a slow start it kept me captivated by its charm to the happily ever after ending. The special effects that brought all the enchanted objects to life were exceptionally well done and the castles set design was magnificent. I loved it and I am sure children of all ages will be enthralled. (Little ones may prefer the animated classic). It is already a huge box office draw - so far it has grossed $766 million on a $160 million production budget! I would encourage others to see it, especially on a rainy school holiday. If you love musicals you are in for a treat, the songs are familiar and I still have ‘Be our Guest’ on a loop in my head.
For this Tale as Old as Time, I give an on-theme 3.5 roses out of 5.
*I could even be tempted into seeing it again in 3D! Sick bag at the ready.