A Befuddled Father Goes to See Beauty & the Beast

The first movie I saw in the theaters was Walt Disney’s “Robin Hood”.  I’ve been a devotee of the theater experience ever since. Nothing beats a dark theater and a wide screen showing a film you hope will let you escape from the real world.

Sometimes with popcorn; and nowadays a full-fledged dinner and alcoholic drink. Although I miss the days of sneaking in a six-pack …

… or two …

… and I miss drive-ins, too (which is itself a whole other topic)

My daughter is seven years old. This past weekend we took her to HER first movie in a theater. We have been to movie night at the library and have watched movies at home at her own pace. But this was her first real movie experience – popcorn, soda, etc.

It, too, was a Disney movie – the non-animated (I hesitate to use the word “live” with all the CGI in it) version of Beauty & the Beast. For my princess-loving princess, this was a canny choice. She has seen the original many times and will watch anything Disney-princess-related. Sophia the First runs many times on our living room flatscreen.

My wife is also a big fan the original – having many Belle-related dolls in a display cabinet. It’s one of her favorite movies.

Aside #1: my wife’s first movie, by the way, was “Star Wars” which is NOW a Disney movie as well…

Aside #2: the fact that a child’s first movie was made by Disney – especially in the 1960s and ‘70s, is not all that surprising…

When Disney first announced B&B as their next live-action remake, my wife said she wanted to see it. This is a bigger deal than it sounds, as she is not as thrilled by movie-going as I am. And this would be our daughter’s first movie in a theater.

I joked that they could drop me off at the nearest pub on their way. Later I said I would sneak into another movie at the multiplex and meet them in the lobby when it was over.

I kid. I wanted to see it too, grudgingly. Beauty and the Beast was Disney’s masterpiece. I saw it upon release with my mother and sister. I, along with everyone else, fell in love with it. Roger Ebert said, “Beauty and the Beast reaches back to an older and healthier Hollywood tradition in which the best writers, musicians and filmmakers are gathered for a project on the assumption that a family audience deserves great entertainment, too.”  He gave it 4 out of 4 stars – for Ebert, this was a unique grade for a movie that did not show a woman’s nipples.

It was the first animated movie to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. It is also the only animated movie to ever be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture because the bastards at the Academy changed the rules, saying cartoons would no longer be nominated for Best Picture. And the Academy wonders why they are becoming as relevant as the slide rule …

Beauty and the Beast was a fun movie and did not disappoint. It was not without its flaws, and that is only because of comparisons with the original. Granted, it is not fair to compare ANY movie with the original, but a remake is asking for it.

The new version is Jan to the original’s Marsha. Comparisons are inevitable, expected and never in Jan’s favor. Marsha, Marsha, Marsha.

Were there no original, this version would have been more highly touted.

It. Was. A. Good. Movie.

But when the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra performs Mozart, it may be beautiful. Its majesty may bring tears to my eyes.

But it’s not Mozart performing Mozart.

Emma Watson made a pretty Belle, and captured her independence and strength. It was good casting. And that WAS her singing throughout – she has a lovely voice. But it lacked the operatic quality of the opening number (“Belle” – NOT the opening number of the remake) by Paige O’Hara that made one swoon. I fell in love with Belle at that song’s break (“Oh, isn’t this amazing…”). Emma Watson’s singing voice – as marvelous as the rest of her performance was – didn’t have that reach.

During an interview, Ewan McGregor said he did not see the original. His loss. His reasoning was that, therefore, he would not even subconsciously base Lumiere on the performance by Jerry Orbach. Our loss. And his mistake – Jerry’s version outshown Ewan’s in every frame. It was not McGregor’s fault, but how could he possibly compete? First Alec Guinness, now Jerry Orbach …  Marsha Marsha Marsha.

Imagine a clip in this movie where Chip looks up into a cupboard to an older teapot and says, “Good night, Grandma” and the teapot (the voice of Angela Landsbury) says “Good night, Luv.” It would have taken five seconds and audiences would have broken into tears. Did Ms. Landsbury refuse to have any part in the movie (doubtful)? Did the producers not want any part of the original (likely)? It would only have helped – a blessing from the original cast would have helped us purists not be such … purists.

And what harm could have come to allow David Ogden Stiers (Cogsworth in the original) to have just one line … one? Not that Sir Ian McKellen did a bad job. He was a highlight!

BUT – when Cogsworth was on the steps of the entrance and the villagers approached? Just a quick “you shall not pass”?

“Daddy, sit down. Stop clapping.”

Mordant bleu! Even Wesley Eure and Kathy Coleman were given cameos (albeit they are still on the cutting-room floor) in that god-awful Land of the Lost remake vomited upon us some years ago … so shame on you Disney.

My main issue with the remake is simply … why?

BUT … go see it and enjoy it. We did. Then go home and watch the DVD of the original and enjoy that, too

We did.

Marsha Marsha Marsha!!

 

It was 10:00 am on a Saturday morning. 10:00am? Weird time for a movie. But Beauty and the Beast is a huge hit and odd movie-times are not unusual for a hit. As we walked down the hallway of the multiplex to Theater 1 I noticed a sign saying this was a Sensory-Friendly showing.

A what?

 

to be continued …

Copyright 2017 by Michael Curry

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About the blogger:

Michael is an author of fiction and non-fiction, including  …

toddler-tv-cover

Toddler TV: A Befuddled Father’s Guide to What the Kids are Watching

https://michaelgcurry.com/toddler-tv/

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A review of Star Wars The Force Awakens (with some slight spoilers)

SW-THE-FORCE-AWAKENS

There are 7.125 billion people on this planet. On Christmas Eve I became the 7,125,000,001st person to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This is a brief review with minimal spoilers.

I was just the right age to enjoy the first Star Wars movie. Now, by first movie I mean FIRST movie, back in 1977, before it was a trilogy, or before that a nine-part-epic, then before that a trilogy, then before that just the one movie… 🙂 . The opening fanfare still brings back floods of memories. Every time I hear it, just for a brief second, just a nano-second, I am 12 years old again.

The only comparable feeling is the smile on my face when I hear THAT portion of the William Tell Overture. People of a certain age can’t help but shouting, “Hiyo Silver!” at just the right part of the song. The opening fanfare of Star Wars creates a logarithmically greater chill.

The archetype of the first Star Wars is well known to anyone who read (or saw) the Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, the Wheel of Time series, etc.: a strange wizard whisks a youngster and his friends off to fight the forces of a dark lord.

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The story of Star Wars boils down to this:

The movie opens with the forces of good losing a devastating battle against the forces of evil. One of our heroes has vital information that may finally defeat the bad guys once and for all. To prevent the information from falling into the hands of evil, it is hidden in a droid that is sent to a barren desert world.

After fighting off scavengers, the droid befriends our main hero. We meet the rest of our heroic band who join together to take the droid to the main HQ of the good guys – whilst in the meantime visiting various places in the galaxy including an odd bar filled with bizarre aliens and unusual – yet strangely familiar- music.

We discover that the bad guys have created a planet-size machine that can destroy an entire world in one blast. They discover a flaw that can destroy the machine, but first they have to infiltrate the machine and shut off the shields.

Then the good guys in their space fighters head to the planet’s one weak spot. Can they destroy it in time, before the machine can fire upon the good guy’s home base?

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The rest is cinematic history: the merchandising of the first movie, the comic books, the Holiday Special (shudder), Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, the Empire Strikes Back, the Han Solo books, the Lando Calrissian books, Return of the Jedi, the cartoons, more comic books, Heir to the Empire, more and more books from the distant past and distant future, the Phantom Menace (slight chill), the other two movies of the second trilogy (shudder), the purchase by Disney … and on and on.

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And now here we are at Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens.

A brief plot descriptions (with only MILD SPOILERS):

The movie opens with the forces of good losing a devastating battle against the forces of evil. One of our heroes has vital information that may finally defeat the bad guys once and for all. To prevent the information from falling into the hands of evil, it is hidden in a droid that is sent to a barren desert world.

After fighting off scavengers, the droid befriends our main hero. We meet the rest of our heroic band who join together to take the droid to the main HQ of the good guys – whilst in the meantime visiting various places in the galaxy including an odd bar filled with bizarre aliens and unusual – yet strangely familiar- music.

We discover that the bad guys have created a planet-size machine that can destroy an entire world in one blast. They discover a flaw that can destroy the machine, but first they have to infiltrate the machine and shut off the shields.

Then the good guys in their space fighters head to the planet’s one weak spot. Can they destroy it in time, before the machine can fire upon the good guy’s home base?

END OF SPOILERS

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Star-Wars-The-Force-Awakens-poster

I say the above with tongue planted firmly in cheek, of course. The plot of Force Awakens is an homage bordering on plagiarism, yet despite this slight similarity in plot 🙂 , it worked! Force Awakens is a great film!

And leave us not forget that the original Star Wars was itself an homage to old serials of the sci-fi and pirate genres …

It is not a complete reboot ala JJ Abrams’ two recent Star Trek movies, it is a continuation.  We meet new heroes and villains. All are interesting and I cannot wait to see them again. Each seems, again, to be an homage to those-who-came-before: Rey, the main hero from the desert-world whose past remains unresolved, Poe the pilot extraordinaire/lovable rogue (although despite such comparisons to a certain Correllian smuggler, from the first moment of his introduction Poe’s being a hero of the rebellion is never in question), Kylo Ren as the Darth Vader wannabe (SPOILER: when he takes off his mask I whispered to my wife; “Abrams couldn’t get Marilyn Manson?” END OF SPOILER), and even BB-8, the R2D2-spunky-and-cute-droid of the movie.

The most unique starring character is Finn – by that I mean he has no real original movie equivalent – as a storm trooper/deserter. He starts as a coward but his attraction to Rey, and his eventual discovery of his bravery and sense of right and wrong, turn him from the dark side.

By far my favorite character is the Palpatine-equivalent Supreme Leader Snoke, “played” by CGI-king Andy Serkis with a disturbing resemblance to Bill Nighy.

Our old friends are also present. No spoilers here, there are as-yet undiscovered tribes in the Amazon who know that Han Solo, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker are also in the film. As are Chewbacca, C3P0 and R2D2. I heard the voice of Obi-Wan during one intense scene and although I read Yoda’s voice is also heard I must have missed it.

Certain characters (or their alien race) from the second trilogy have been happily omitted. Mesa happy about that.

Most of our old friends appear in vital slightly-more-than-cameos. Carrie Fisher’s Leia gives us more emotion here than she had in all three of the trilogy. She is wonderful in her role.

No spoilers here: I am very pleased to report that Harrison Ford’s Han Solo is more than a cameo – he has more of a roll in the movie than Poe. Captain Grumpy excels in the role that made him a superstar – I loved this Han Solo. Here is he is older and not necessarily wiser. And funnier!! “You’re cold.”

There is much more humor here than in the prior six films, but not enough to lower the movie into spoof territory. The humor comes from the characters and the situations and is realistically done. Poe and Finn especially give us some very canny quips to uncanny situations. “Why are you nodding your head at me while I am trying to talk?”

The Force Awakens is not perfect. No movie is perfect. Okay, Godfathers 1 & 2 are perfect. No OTHER movies are perfect.

But this is close. The only real issues were the deux ex machina of some of the rescues and sudden and coincidental appearances of the cast. But, to be frank, that is expected in this kind of genre, isn’t it?

The direct parallels to the first movie made for a pleasant homage to we old fuddy-duddies and still made for a great story.

The original fanfare opening the movie made me feel like a 12-year-old for that split second. The plot homages helped continue that feeling. An original plot – and remember Phantom Menace, for example, had a very original plot – might not have done so.

Perhaps it might be best Abrams is not involved in the rest of this third trilogy. If only because of his track record of his Star Trek movies: the first, a redo of the original series. The second, a redo of Wrath of Khan. I would worry about his plot of a second Star Wars movie: After a First Order assault decimates a rebel base, Finn & Poe seek refuge at a base they thought was run by an ally, but are betrayed. Meanwhile, (SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT) Rey goes to a swamp world to be trained in the Force by a reptilian Fozzy Bear … (END OF SPOILER)

For the first time since the first movie, I want to see more of this universe. Empire succeeded in doing that. Let’s hope Episode Eight does that, too.

And remember Empire had an original plot. We’ve now known the thrill of knowing this universe we love so much is back, so now let’s move forward instead of looking back …

Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry