Paige O’Hara, the voice of Belle from the beloved 1991 Disney animated film of “Beauty and the Beast,” was perfect. And so was most of the movie in the way it married dynamic, colorful and imaginative visuals to thrilling music by Alan Menken that brought the Brothers Grimm tale to life. Unfortunately, Emma Watson, who plays Belle in the new live-action version of the 1991 hit, is no Paige O’Hara.
That’s a shame, because the movie is exciting to watch. But, when we first meet Belle as she strolls through her tiny village to borrow a book while attracting stares from the townsfolk who think her “odd,” the song by O’Hara was uplifting and directly spoke to the character’s yearning. Watson simply strolls and while she tries to hit the right notes, fails sadly. Don’t despair. She gets better and by the end, there is no doubt hankies will be dabbed in the dark.
Having seen the animated movie once before I was a dad and then numerous times afterward, I was always tickled by how the filmmakers slyly injected mild social commentary into the plot. But, because it was a decidedly G-rated film, these were never more than fluffy-subtle. With the live-action version on screens now, it’s clear that director Bill Condon — who did “Dreamgirls” (2006), “Gods and Monsters” (1998) and “Mr. Holmes” (2015) — is well versed in classic storytelling and so felt comfortable knowing the little girls who first watched this movie with their moms are now watching it with their own little ones. That’s why this feels so mature, yet not so much that kids won’t enjoy it.
After all, the characters are mostly adults, even the enchanted clock, candelabra, tea pitcher and harpsichord, except, of course, Chip, the little teacup. So, naturally, you’d think grown-up issues might find their way into the plot about an egotistical prince who humiliates an enchantress and brings upon himself a curse that transforms him into a beast. Once Belle finds her way into his castle to rescue her doddering old dad (wonderfully played and sung by Kevin Kline) and takes his place as the beast’s captive, we’re well aware of the battle of sexes being established. Actually, though, it’s more apparent in the way the boorish other “beast,” Gaston (Luke Evans), behaves toward Belle.
Gaston, even in the animated film, is an extreme example of the alpha male deluded by ego into believing he is all that to women and a hero figure to all men. In this version, that image is made even more a caricature by portraying his sidekick, LeFou (Josh Gad), as an obviously gay sycophant who is in love with Gaston, only he doesn’t know it. Of course, this element has been a hot-button issue with some, but to me, it deserves no more than a dismissive “So what?”The movie does contain some violence, but as in the previous movie, it’s all toward teaching valuable lessons about seeing the good beneath the surface. The “beast” is actually a good man. The cursed objects in the castle are sweet people caught up in a mystery they had nothing to do with. Also, a girl may seem “odd” to some, but hers is the purest heart of all.
So, go on. Take your kids. It’s a good movie and you’ll feel great sharing it with them.
Additional cast members include Ian McKellan, Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson and Stanley Tucci.
“Beauty and the Beast” is rated PG for some action violence, peril and frightening images.
It is screening daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4145 or visit storyteller7.com.
Also showing in Taos
The following was edited from press materials
MPAA rating: R for some language
Movies at the TCA
The latest from writer-director Jim Jarmusch, who wrote the original film treatment 20 years ago, follows exactly one week in the life of a young man named Paterson, of Paterson, New Jersey.
Every day, Paterson (Adam Driver) adheres to a simple routine. He wakes up at exactly the same time every day without an alarm. He eats Cheerios for breakfast, walks to work carrying his brown bag lunch packed in his lunch pail by his wife, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), and has a casual chat with his co-worker, Donny (Rizwan Manji), before he begins his shift driving the No. 23 Paterson bus. While driving, he observes the city and listens to fragments of conversations while picking up and dropping off his passengers.
He then walks home, where he straightens out the mailbox that somehow gets knocked over during the day. He eats dinner with Laura and listens to her goings-on of the day, taking Laura’s English bulldog, Marvin — who he doesn’t much like — out for a walk to his neighborhood bar, where he has exactly one beer before walking home with Marvin to climb into bed with an already-asleep Laura.
There are day-to-day variations, which are often the result of how certain other routines associated to him manifest themselves, such as what drama will occur in the relationship of Marie and Everett (Chasten Harmon and William Jackson Harper), who are always at the bar together despite the fact that she always states they are no longer together, or in what form Laura’s unique and distinctive design sense will affect Paterson’s life directly or indirectly.
Paterson’s observations of what happens around him are largely the basis for the poems he writes in his secret notebook whenever he has a spare moment during the day.
He is influenced by, among others, natives of Paterson, New Jersey, such as William Carlos Williams and his epic poem, “Paterson.” Paterson, in the movie, writes largely for himself, although Laura would like him to share more with her and the rest of the world. Something that happens to Paterson this week has the potential to knock his regimented world into a tailspin.
The poems in the film came from Ron Padgett, one of Jarmusch’s favorite contemporary poets, who agreed to write the poems for the film and who let Jarmusch use some of his pre-existing poems, according to imdb.com.
Manohla Dargis writes in the Dec. 27, 2016, New York Times: “Things happen to Paterson — he has a rough Friday and Saturday, though a better Sunday — but Mr. Jarmusch doesn’t turn problems into drama. Life is enough. Instead, with visual precision and emotional restraint — and aided by Mr. Driver’s tamped-down, sober and gently endearing performance — Mr. Jarmusch creates that rarest portrait of the artist: the one who’s happy being hard at work.”
This film will be screened at 2 p.m. Sunday (March 26), and at 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday (March 27-29).
Movies at the TCA film series, Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. For tickets and additional information, call the Taos Center for the Arts at (575) 758-2052 or visit tcataos.org.