It's been a lean time recently at the cinema in these parts so, to avoid the onset of withdrawal symptoms, I decided to give this a try, my being made curious largely by the shemozzle in parts of the world by its inclusion of (shock, horror!) a gay character. Quick, pass me the smelling salts! If it wasn't for entire governments getting into a tizzy on the subject I might well have given it a miss.
In the event, as it turned out, I was agreeably surprised to find that the film wasn't at all bad. No, I do it an injustice - it was definitely on the 'good' side.
Let's get that 'controversy' out of the way first. It's the fourth-billed character who's a self-declared gay, one Lefou (Josh Gad), playing a 'Sancho Panza' sidekick-part to arch-villain Luke Evans' role, the latter trying to get Belle (to me, a rather insipid Emma Watson) to love him when in actuality he's only in love with himself - and anyway, she's by now in love with the Beast (Dan Stevens). I shan't waste time outlining the story which surely everyone knows, though I was impressed by how they made the Beast's face so expressive of a range of emotions, presumably, thanks to computer tricks.
Back to the gay thing. It's not a big role that he has, not much screen time, which he uses it to flounce around a bit, not exactly outrageously, but just a whisker away from being a caricature. When about half an hour into the film his 'boss' asks him why he doesn't take off with one of the many available (and apparently desperately thirsting for some lusty 'action') young ladies in the town, he baldly states that he is gay - but by no means yelling it and not making a big deal of it either. If you didn't know it was coming you might well miss the exchange. Anyway, the reaction of his boss is to give a slight moue of indifference. And that's about it - though there are just one or two slightly comic, though inoffensive, brief references to his sexuality later in the film too. Goodness only knows why there's been such a brouhaha about it. Well, I think I do know, actually. It's because for the first time (I imagine) in a Walt Disney film, which is supposed to provide 'wholesome family entertainment' there has been the inclusion of such an upfront gay character. The surprise to me is not that there now is one, it's more a case of "why did it take so long?"
Anyway, so much for that.
In addition to the named actors there is Kevin Kline as Belle's father in quite a large part. Haven't seen him on the cinema screen for ages - a welcome return!
Then, if one didn't already know, there are some big names who are visually revealed in the final credits as being the voices (some singing) behind various anthropomorphic utensils, dining objects and pieces of furniture. I did know who were in the cast but I didn't always match the voice to the actor.
The songs are mainly taken from the 1991 animation film (I preferred this new film version despite the earlier cartoon winning multiple awards) by composer Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman, the latter now being supplemented by the superior (in my opinion) lyric-writing talents of none other than Tim Rice, who always has something interesting (and often amusing) to say. Pity then, that so much of the words are hard to make out, particularly when there's group singing.
The songs are all played out suitably lavishly - especially 'Be our Guest' which has just about everything thrown at the screen without getting over-messy. I liked its presentation a lot. Exhilarating.
Director is Bill Condon who manages big set scenes with complete confidence, including those with many participants, He's made some pleasing films over the years and I'd put this up there among the better ones of them.
It also ought to be mentioned that there's a great deal of swirling camera action which may tend to make some people dizzy. The entire film is busy both in action and camerawork and I do think that seeing it in 3D would give it a further 'plus'.
If you were thinking that this film is unlikely to be to your taste I'd suggest you give it serious thought. It left me feeling elated, and I'm very pleased that circumstances finally leant on me sufficiently to give it a go.....................7.
4 minutes ago