(B&B is in the public domain of everyone’s childhood so Boblius refuses to acknowledge plot details as “spoilers.”)
Before he’s THE BEAST, Beast is a tax-and-spend Prince. He vacuums income from the subjects of his French village to throw lavish parties where he prances around like Agador from The Birdcage (but somehow isn’t the gay character people are up in arms about?). The villagers are happy to RSVP in the affirmative for pre-Beast’s parties as long as he doesn’t mock them.
When a disheveled and smelly (one assumes) crone stumbles into pre-Beast’s latest party offering a single rose in exchange for shelter during a horrific storm, he laughs her offer away. Only pre-Beast gives out the roses in this edition of Bizarro Bachelor. For his haughtiness, the crone reveals herself to be an Enchantress (we wouldn’t want to call her a witch in a movie starring Hermione) then transforms pre-Beast into THE (CGI) BEAST. Finally. Now he looks like the Beast from our childhood. Whew.
Fast forward about ten years. We meet Belle. No one knows what to do with her in Villenueve because she reads. Like books and stuff. But that’s just when she’s not slogging away at the world’s tiniest farm (couldn’t be more than an acre or two) while her Dad, Maurice, builds small machines. The rest of the townspeople, banished from Beast’s castle raves by the Enchantress’s spell, now actually have to work. Oh, and the spell seems to have exorcised the very Frenchness out of this French village. Other than Ewan McGregor’s admirably awful accent, is there anything French in Villenueve? Certainly not the villagers’ work ethic.
Next we endure Gaston’s “I’m a bad guy” song and Maurice’s imprisonment by Beast. Then Belle pulls the switcheroo so she can take dear old dad’s place as Beast’s prisoner. This is where the anthropomorphized furniture and knickknacks take over as the true beasts of the movie… the bureaucracy.
Belle is their prisoner as much as she is Beast’s. The absurdity of her or Maurice’s “sentence” (does anyone remember a trial?) be damned, they’ll serve her up to the Beast like a boar at a luau. All that’s missing is an apple in her pie hole.
After an attempted escape, Belle gives up on her own freedom after Beast is mauled by some neighborhood wolves who first targeted her. She doesn’t seem to care that Beast was likely present because he was stalking/apprehending her. Like a brainwashed North Korean weeping at Kim Jung Un’s bedside, Belle suddenly has sympathy for her “savior.” He then bribes her into complacency with his private library. She might as well wear a bumper sticker that reads “Will give up personal freedom for books.” Belle only leaves again when Maurice’s life is in danger – as if freedom can only
be curtailed by death.
The villagers are whipped into a frothy frenzy by Gaston. They storm after Beast like he’s some kind of sadistic monster who imprisons people for absurdly petty offenses. (Wait a second!) As they enter Beast’s opulent abode their memories are jogged: “I remember now! My earnings paid for this jerk to live in his own Neverland Ranch!” The chachka apparatchiks beat the proletariat back just long enough for Belle to declare her love for the State– er I mean the Beast! That’s what I meant! The Beast! The awful Spell of the Independent Village is broken. Their tax dollars flow back into the palace for some great parties. And isn’t that what’s important? Throwing the same parties from the beginning of the movie but with a nicer host?
Questions for Our Health:
A) How did Stanley Tucci, Pauly Shore’s co-star from Jury Duty, become blockbuster insurance for studio tent pole movies?
B) They seriously couldn’t find a part for Gérard Depardieu? Even
Kenneth Branaugh dug something up for him in Hamlet.
C) Was anyone else expecting a surprise reveal that Beauty & the Beast is actually about Hermione fixing a bunch of Ron’s Transfiguration mistakes?
D) Did Lumière and Cogsworth have those names before the spell? Coincidence or did the Enchantress lazily pick which objects to turn them into from their names? If so, look out Kevin Bacon!