Malaysia’s refusal to screen the new Beauty and the Beast uncut (resulting in Disney pulling the film completely in response) stems from LeFou’s (Frozen’s Olaf, Josh Gad) being portrayed as a gay man.
Going in, one couldn’t help but wonder what the fuss was about, seeing as LeFou’s sycophantic relationship with manly man Gaston has always had an air of unrequited desire about it, similar to Smithers’ love for Mr. Burns on The Simpsons. But where The Simpsons had three decades to play around with that one-way relationship before bringing it out of the closet, Disney just decided to throw subtlety out the window here and just have LeFou be gay this time around. Now, having finally seen the film, I can safely say that the “controversial change” makes no difference to the overall plot, characters, or overall film, and anyone who thinks so should probably have their head examined.
Or maybe they’re just the ones the character’s phonetically punny name was referring to.
It’s a Richer World
In bringing Beauty and the Beast to life in three dimensions, nearly every character has received an expanded back story flesh them out, be it Gaston’s status as a returning war hero or Maurice’s reasons for raising Belle on his own. While the characters remain roughly as caricature-ish as they were in animation, one does appreciate the attempt to explain certain things, such as the collective amnesia that caused an entire town to forget the existence of an enormous castle, its prince, and the hundreds of staff who worked for him. The lone exception to this is the Beast, who is presented less as a brutish rage monster than a melancholic hulk longing to be loved, making him infinitely more likeable. Could have done without the bit about his father, though.
Rest assured, the songs from Menken and Ashman are here in all their timeless glory, along with a couple of new ones that don’t really do much other than add to the runtime. Curiously, none of the additions come from Disney’s own Broadway version or the Special Edition DVD that came out a few years ago.
While your personal mileage on Emma Watson’s singing voice may vary, it is Evans’ Gaston who steals the show, delivering his every number with fine-timbered narcissism. We honestly wouldn’t be surprised if this led to future musical appearances from the guy.
Meanwhile, McGregor still can’t do foreign accents to save his life (Big Fish, anyone?), with his take on Lumiere’s French accent ending up somewhere on the level of Dick Van Dyke’s cockney from Mary Poppins. Rest assured, “Be My Guest” is still every bit the showstopper it was in 1991.
The Magic is Real
Objectively, this writer has yet to be convinced of the need for this story to be retold by this particular studio, but one must admit to a preferential bias for seeing his childhood memories being resurrected in this way. When all is said and done, this is a beautiful retelling of a beloved story, and one well worth experiencing on the big screen.
Tale as old as time, indeed.
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