Between 1989 and 1999, Disney released some of the most successful animated films of all time. Beauty and the Beast became the first animated film ever to receive a Best Picture Oscar nomination. Known as the Disney Renaissance, it created a lifelong obsession for many ’90s kids who took the characters and songs to their hearts.
The only “Disney classic” I saw on a reasonably big screen was The Lion King, and that was just because I was trapped on a ferry to France at the time. Therefore I’m not one those people taking umbrage at the live-action offensive the studio has been on for the last few years.
Besides being accused of existing merely as a cash grab, there have been other controversies surrounding their latest remake, Beauty and the Beast.
Firstly there was a lot of fuss over the casting of Beauty, AKA Belle. She is played by the fragrant Ms. Emma Watson, who is said to have committed to the film instead of accepting the role that went to Emma Stone in the musical La La Land. Stone, of course, went on to win an Oscar for her performance.
Beauty demonstrates that Watson can’t really sing, but then neither can Stone. Maybe she would have been fine in La La Land and has indeed missed out on an Oscar. But she shouldn’t feel bad. Nobody could have foreseen that the Damian Chazelle-directed film was going to become such an overrated hype job.
Furthermore, Watson has come up smelling of roses, having made serious bank. She will have first pick of future roles and is still young enough and pretty enough to get her Oscar. Cynicism intended.
If not, she can fall back on her other talents. For Watson has been busy doing what she does best by promoting Beauty as a modern, empowering, feminist take on the fairy tale. The story is today viewed (probably correctly) as a ‘problematic’ one with many unhealthy behaviours.
For what it’s worth, Watson’s Belle is courageous and knows her own mind. Although a simple village girl, she has no trouble rejecting Luke Evans’s ghastly Gaston. Once the friendship between Belle and the Beast is established, he’s revealed as her intellectual equal, and he doesn’t turn on her like a snarling dog later on.
Once you’ve cut through the forest of thorny brambles that is the controversy generated in online media, it’s charming, but not especially groundbreaking. You can find a dozen technical things to nitpick, for example the CGI, or the length, or the accents.
Perhaps all there is to say is that my audience applauded, and I’ve been happily humming the tunes since I left the cinema.