I took the kids to see Beauty and the Beast yesterday. This is my favorite animated Disney film, I love the stage musical and have performed Belle myself in a production of that years ago. You might think my expectations were going to be high. That I was going to be judgmental or snooty about how this movie would measure up. But, I went in with my mind clear. Ready for a whole new, re-imagined experience.
I love that movie musicals are back in vogue and I will not compare. I have learned that a movie version is only another vision, much like live theater, you are going to see something different every time. New actors, new costumes, in this case there was some new songs and (thankfully) new plot lines that cleared up some of my questions from the past. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I started crying from the time the music to the opening sequence started. This movie was magical.
My only beef, and yes this is a vocal blog so I am going to have a beef...and maybe not the beef you think I am going to have, BUT...WHAT WAS WITH THE HEAVY AUTOTUNE! I mean, seriously Disney. I know that this company strives for perfection in everything that they do. They are the masters of detail. But, I lost so much of the nuance of sweet Emma Watson when she sang because you...dare I say it...you went overboard on the autotune. I realize that probably most of the actors who sang in this film had some autotune and tweaking done in the studio, but it is so overtly apparent with Emma and I question the reasoning behind it.
With movie musicals casting Hollywood actors who sing or actors who can carry a tune, or actors who worked their patooty off in voice lessons months before shooting starts on the film,...um...just leave them alone. Let them do their thing. They are Hollywood actors who are not technically trained in musical theater. Let them...ACT! Let them give us the song from their hearts. I saw it in her face, her body, I just couldn't hear it some of the time because she was so vocally masked.
I understand getting busy in the sound booth when it came to Dan Stevens. His voice was modified to fit the fact that he was a BEAST! But, back off on Belle. I wanted that same raw performance we saw from the actors in Les Miserables (sans Russell Crowe). In that film they sang live and it worked. Vocal imperfections and all. It worked!
Now some people might argue that she just couldn't sing on tune and so that is why they laid the autotune on thick. Poppycosh! There were times when they pulled back on the autotune and she sounded just fine. And with the exceptions of Audra McDonald, Kevin Kline and Josh Gad, she was in a movie with other film actors who sang. Emma Thompson (Mrs. Potts) was brilliant in her songs. WHY? Because they let her just sing them. Interpret them. Nuance them. Feel them. Convey them. Her performance of the title song made me cry the whole. time. she. sang. And Emma Thompson isn't a Broadway musical star. Emma Thompson isn't a top 40 artist. She is an actress who can sing. And you know what? So is Emma Watson. Let her do her thing and stop trying to "fix" what isn't broken.
Now let me take a moment for my boyfriend, Ewan McGregor, who played Lumiere. Delightful! What a fun scene "Be Our Guest" was. It is a change when you don't have the big eyed connection that the cartoon version has or the person to person connection that the stage version offers. The household staff had to primarily use their voices to connect to the audience hand in hand with the CGI animators. I connected most with Lumiere and Mrs. Potts. Probably because they had actual faces. It was a bold choice to go so realistic with these characters, but with the voice talent they had in these actors I felt it worked, not perfectly, but rather well.
In closing, can I just say how much I loved Luke Evans as Gaston? Just knowing him from the Hobbit film I was impressed by his bold, yet truthful, character work and his singing voice. Luke Evans pretty much stole every scene he was in. I knew Josh Gad would nail it, and he did. I loved LeFou's transformation in this, going from worshiping Gaston to realizing what a first class jerk he is. I liked the depth that Josh brought to it. But, go Luke Evans for holding your own with the likes of Kevin Kline and Josh Gad. Well done, you!
This was a stunning film and I will be seeing it again, and probably again. The relationship between Kevin Kline and Emma Watson was so sweet. I was fond of the new songs they gave Kevin. I adore seeing him on screen. The chemistry between Dan and Emma was tangible and believable. Everything worked in this film, I loved it...except that stupid overly apparent autotune. I would parallel it to actors who are standing up against being photoshopped/airbrushed. It is basically the same thing. They should stand against this. It takes away from the integrity of their performance.