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Production is a 'Beauty' to behold, but movie's too long ... and phooey on LeFou's 'gay moment'
Last Edit: WaymanWong 09:46 pm EDT 03/17/17
Posted by: WaymanWong 09:38 pm EDT 03/17/17

Disney's ''Beauty and the Beast'' was an Oscar-winning animated classic (1991), and now it's back in movie theaters as a live-action extraganza. Disney spent a mint on this outrageous riot of stunning sets, gorgeous gowns and elaborate makeup and hair (all sure to be Oscar contenders next year), and it will be just as handsomely rewarded with record box-office grosses. Emma Watson is lovely and clear as a Belle, the book-loving gal who eventually opens up to the cursed and curmudgeonly Beast (played under all that fur by Dan Stevens). Luke Evans is the vain and villainous Gaston, and he preens to perfection. Gaston also enjoys seeing his reflected glory, mirrored by his loony and buffoon sidekick, LeFou (Josh Gad).

Because ''Beauty and the Beast'' is ''a tale as old as time,'' it's sad to report that the new live-action version plays out pretty predictably. Not that director Bill Condon (loved his ''Dreamgirls'') or co-screenwriters Stephen Chbosky (loved his ''Perks of Being a Wallflower'') and Evan Spiiotopoulos didn't try to throw in a few little twists: There's a subplot about what happened to Belle's mom. And Alan Menken and Tim Rice wrote a few more songs (that'll be Oscar-eligible). But ultimately, they help swell the movie's running time. The original animated film was just 82 minutes long. The new version is now 129 minutes. Obviously, there's an element of surprise that's lost, too. When we first saw ''Be Our Guest,'' we weren't expected to be wowed by a Busby Berkeley cartoon number for forks, spoons and plates. Now, of course, we know it's coming, and somehow it's less magical seeing how literal-minded it is, when actual plates and cups zoom about the room. It's more exhausting than exhilarating.

Because the movie feels long, my mind wandered and started wondering about things that never bothered me in the animated movie. Like: If this is a French provincial town, why does most everyone speak with a British accent, except possibly Lumiere? At times, it seems like the Beast's castle is a few days' away from the town; at other times, it's only a few hours away. And even though I consider myself a romantic at heart, I admit that I've never been the biggest fan of ''Beauty and the Beast.'' No matter how you dress it up, it's still a hostage drama: A man holds a woman captive against her free will, and wants her to fall in love with him. This is like the Stockholm Syndrome for kiddies.

Finally, about LeFou's ''gay moment.'' Talk about much to-do about nothing. Spoiler ahead: There's a grand ball at the end of the movie. LeFou is seen dancing with a girl a couple of times. At one point, everyone changes partners, and LeFou ends up with a guy, instead a gal. That's it: a comic accident, which we've seen in other movies. It happens so quickly with Gad that it doesn't even get a laugh. And I'm not Josh-ing.
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