A STAR for Entertainment Value … Disney’s new live-action Beauty and the Beast movie gives us all the charm and magic of their 1991 classic and more. The translation from classic animation to real live actors and sets was almost flawless in my book, although I must point out that it wasn’t a full translation. By that I mean there were still many computer generated characters, effects, and settings throughout the film. However, this new mostly live action version was a faithful, modernized adaptation of the animated Beauty and the Beast that we all know and love.
The actors chosen to play Bell, Gaston, and the rest were all right on. Emma Watson took on the challenge of embodying one of Disney’s most beloved princesses and came through with flying colors. She, like Lily James in the 2015 Cinderella, found the perfect balance of sweet and innocent with smart and courageous. Luke Evans also fit the part of the villain, Gaston, perfectly. I was especially skeptical about the part of Gaston before seeing the movie. I figured they’d have to change his character to fit whoever played him. But I was amazed to see how much Luke Evans looked like and acted like the Gaston from the animated version. If there was a weak spot in Beauty and the Beast, it was the beast, in my opinion. Most, if not all of his scenes were computer generated. I suppose he was done that way in order to make him larger than a normal human. But, I found myself pulled out of the story several times when I noticed how computerized he looked and moved. That’s my only complaint. Otherwise, the movie was lots of fun and well done.
The musical numbers were as big and magical as the animated version. That’s a tough feet to pull off considering animated musical numbers tend to be out of this world in their imagination and grand scale. The 2017 Beauty and the Beast did an incredible job of matching and even going beyond some of the famous musical scenes from the original. There were also a few new songs that added some new depth to the story.
A STAR for Content Issues … I have zero warnings to give parents about content issues in this movie. I’m assuming parents won’t bring small children that might be frightened by the beast in some of his early scenes. However, I do want to address a concern that some Christian parents have about the inclusion of a gay character in the film. I am not calling LeFou, the gay character, a content issue. I’m only addressing him because I’d like to share my approach to dealing with this issue with my own kids. It’s no secret that I’m a Christian conservative parent. I, like many others, was concerned at first when I heard there would be a gay character in a movie made for and marketed to kids. I did some research and found that the scenes were more or less harmless so I made the decision to see the movie with my girls. After all, they’ve been excited about seeing it for well over a year. It would take some really bad content to make me back out on something that they were so looking forward to. Regardless of their feelings, I made up my mind right away to treat this movie the same way I’ve treated other films that push a world view that goes contrary to the Christian worldview that my family and I live by. What do I mean by Christian worldview? Here’s a great article, What’s a Christian Worldview by Del Tackett that explains it better than I could.
Rather than skipping the movie, I chose to talk to my girls about the contrary messages that are being taught. I believe it’s a much better parenting strategy to teach my kids to be able to spot the lies on their own, rather than try to shelter them from everything out there. Of course, this isn’t to say my approach will work with every movie that has a content issue. There are still plenty of movies that I will not allow my kids to see because the movies cross a moral line that I’ve drawn in the sand. But when it comes to a movie that has no moral issues at all and only a worldview problem, like Beauty and the Beast or Harry Potter, I’ll usually say, “Yes, let’s go see it, but let’s also have a talk after it’s over.” I make every effort to keep these conversations as light hearted as possible so they don’t come across too heavy. I try to allow them to share their views too, as we talk, so it doesn’t come across as a lecture. And, I’ve noticed when I start out by asking what they saw wrong in the movie, many times they already know what’s wrong and are able to articulate the problem as well if not better than I can. I usually end up filling in between their thoughts to make sure they are grasping the truth of the matter fully. I also like to ask them if the movie generated any questions in their mind that I could help them answer. Many of these talks about movies have turned into some very special moments between me and my girls.
By the way, my two girls and my wife were all equally thrilled with the 2017 version of Beauty and the Beast. Big STARS from all four of us.