By Esosa Omo-Usoh
With La La Land having done so well at the box office (it has made about $426m on a $30m budget but never mind the Steve Harvey-ishbest picture snafu at the Oscars), and now, Beauty and the Beast making $350m on a $160m budget; dare I say Hollywood might be reviving the movie musical genre any time soon?
Beauty and the Beast is a Disney live-action remake of the eponymous 1991 feature length animation that gave us the similarly titled hit theme song by Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson.
My earliest memory of the Beauty and the Beast story dates to the late 80s when I first saw the 1976 Television movie recreation of the story starring then real-life couple, the late George C. Scott and Trish Van Deverein the titular roles.
The classic story is simple; a vain and selfish prince is turned into a horrendous- looking beast by an enchantress. The spell can only be reversed if he falls in love with a woman who must in turn love him back. Of course, as would be expected in a fairy tale, all this must happen before the last petal of an enchanted rose falls off failing which the spell would remain permanent.
This being 2017, the classic tale expectedly ventures into some topical territories that resonate with today’s conventional wisdom.
Belle, the bibliophile village beauty played by Emma Watson, is a feminist of sorts who seeks a world beyond the provincial one she is stuck in. She is more damsel-who-will-kick-your-ass than damsel in distress.
Pandering to today’s expectations of political correctness by way of diversity, we get two of its most popular forms; firstly, we get the ironically restrictive definition of diversity with black actors being cast (apparently, non-black people of colour do not fall within the meaning of diversity).
Secondly, there was the ever-so-gentle-hint of alternative sexuality in the gay character Lefou played by Josh Gad. Funny thing is; two other characters, in my view, came across as almost borderline gay; the narcissist Gaston played by Luke Evans (from the flourishes of his mannerisms) and the prince-turned beast played by Dan Stevens (from his more-beautiful-than-handsome looks).
As the head-strong and clearly feminist Belle, Emma Watson brought an alluring and non-plastic fresh-faced beauty to the character. But there was always something decidedly Hermione Granger-ish (albeit a tad adolescent-ish) about her that just refused to go away.
As the narcissist Gaston, Luke Evans ventured into an acting territory that he is usually not associated with (especially after his bad guy turn as Owen Shaw in Furious Seven).
As I had earlier observed, even though his narcissistic Gaston should have come across as macho, he came across more as borderline gay especially in the flourishes of his mannerisms in his interactions with LeFou. His obsession with Belle therefore came across as more to hide his real sexuality than a testosterone-fuelled typical male quest for sexual conquest.
The coterie of supporting cast, whether as themselves or as enchantress-turned castle accoutrements, gave performances that ranged from forgettable to expected from a Disney fairy tale production.
And in keeping with typical movie musical production, Beauty and the Beast put on with hyperbolic aplomb musical scenes where extravagant fluffy period costumes jostled with elaborate song and dance routines to give an over-compensating flourish to a production that did not quite justify the decision to make a remake.
Beauty and the Beast was a mildly enjoyable movie. But a play on the lyrics of its theme song best tells it:
Tale as old as time
Tune as old as song…
Just a little change
Small to say the least…
Ever just the same
(N) Ever a surprise
Ever as before
Ever just as sure
As the sun will rise…