Disney sure knows how to squeeze the most out of its original properties: “Disney on Stage”, “Disney on Ice”, “Disney on Toast”…
… cannot be far behind…
And then they cycle back to the beginning, Beauty and the Beas, with actual people. (And a new idea is mercifully spared production.)
Okay, here we go.
It began with a phone call from my now thirty-four year old daughter, Anna.
“Dad, let’s go see Beauty and the Beast.”
(Which I had taken her to when she was eight and I was younger. Not younger than eight. But you probably knew that already.)
We make a date, she comes over to the house and we walk to the multiplex at nearby Santa Monica Mall. Seriously pressed for time, we wolf down our “Fast Food” teriyaki chicken, its preparation taking frustratingly longer than expected, possibly three to four minutes. I felt like I do around the fifteenth second, microwaving a 24-second hot dog.
One unhealthily consumed lunch later, we head to the 12:20 screening of Beauty and the Beast. Anna imagines two other people in the theater, a divorced Dad who let his kid stay home from school so he could be the most liked parent.
It turns out, there are four people in the theater, none of them a misguided Dad and their absentee offspring.
I don’t know why they made Beauty and the Beast over again, this time with (more or less) live actors. A quick peek at the film’s cumulative grosses edging towards five hundred million dollars may, however, offer an illuminating insight. Still, I’m sure that if I ran Disney I’d have definitely said, “Why make it again?”
There’s something wildly euphoric about being really, really wrong about something. Especially when nothing’s on the line but your personal judgment and professional credibility. I feel viscerally giddy about it, a Buddhist monk, delirously erroneous.
“Oh, I made a big boo-boo. Hee-hee-hee-hee-hee!”
To be honest, although I enjoyed Beauty and the Beast – the 1991 computer animated version – it was never my favorite of the post-Dumbo Disney oeuvre. Of the (now not so) new crop of animated features, I substantially prefer The Little Mermaid, although intelligent minds may differ on that account and there shall be no necessity of resorting for fisticuffs.
Beauty and the Beast belongs to the Hunchback of Notre Dame school of fictional imaginings, except that, although the pairing of opposites-in-prettiness is identical, the hunchback remains a hunchback to the end and, if memory serves, the hunchback never gets to dance.
The songs in Beauty and the Beast, with one towering exception, are structurally adequate – okay, “Be Our Guest” is pretty good, but “No one’s slick as Gaston, no one’s quick as Gaston”? Are you kidding me?
The musical kicks off with an obligatory “I want” song, in which the protagonist reveals her motivational hopes and dreams, the vaunted granddaddy of the genre being, “Over the Rainbow”, Dorothy explaining, “I want to get the heck out of Kansas!” an intentional sentiment more literally conveyed in The Little Mermaid’s “I want to be where the people are…”
Here it’s “There must be more than this provincial life”, implying “I want to be someplace more interesting… though not necessarily a creepy castle with a scary beast in it who keeps me a prisoner until he has a fortuitous change of heart. Although at least it’s different.”
The film’s “price of admission” is richly delivered in the film’s evocative “Title Song”. I have written elsewhere of how exhilarating it was, sitting in a darkened theater, watching splendidly gifted practitioners stepping up to the plate with the game on the line and knocking it prodigiously out of the park.
At moments like that, I feel soaringly honored to share a species with such people.
The new Beauty and the Beast dawdles along, at a pace daring audiences over six not to frequently yawn and audiences under six not to fall asleep in their seats. Whoever thought it was a good idea to add half-an-hour’s running time to a primarily “children’s movie”? I mean…
“Four hundred and eighty million...”
Sometimes you’re wrong even when be right. The iPhone 5 is definitely cuter.
We are watching the movie which it’s not terrific but so what? We are in the theater, reliving a childhood connection.
Finally, they get to “The Song.”
The two characters get up from the table to dance. The mellifluous intro begins…
“Da-da-da-da dun dun
Da-da-da-da dun dun…”
And before they get to “Tale as old as time…”
I totally lose it.
And then she does.
It was embarrassing.
Two ostensibly mature grownups, bawling their eyes out at an unnecessary remake.
It was the high point of my seventies.