Excerpt from Father's Day: Beauty and the Beast (1991) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Excerpt from Father’s Day: Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Over the next few days, Ryan offers a preview of his new e-book, Love and Family at 24 Frames Per Second: Fatherhood and Films Passed Down Through the Generations.

OverallI really don’t like Walt Disney’s version of Beauty and the Beast. I didn’t like it when it first came out when I was a kid, and I don’t like it now. There are many reasons for this, including not caring for any of the characters, finding the story weird, and not falling in love with the songs. I watched the movie when it came out in the 1990s, didn’t see what the fuss was about, and didn’t think about it for years. While it is my least favorite Disney animated film from this period of renaissance for Disney, it is the one I have now seen the most. The reason? I am a parent, and it was my daughter’s favorite movie for a while; therefore, I have seen it more than any other film on earth.

My choices on a typical night would be (A) put on Beauty and the Beast and wait for my daughter to fall asleep, or (B) don’t put on the movie and fight all night to get her to sleep, which resulted in an enormous amount of crying and screaming from a very loud toddler. Most nights I went with option A, but sometimes I picked crying and screaming over the first few notes of the opening song. My daughter’s wailing was horrible to listen to, but I was having an allergic reaction to the song “Belle” after a few months. Every night, I would hear the first line, “Little town, it’s a quiet village, every day like the one before,” and know that for the next 90 minutes I would be hearing the songs and seeing the action from the film, and there was no escape.

Monday: “Little town, it’s a quiet village, every day like the one before . . .”
Tuesday: “Little town, it’s a quiet village, every day like the one before . . .”
Wednesday: “Little town, it’s a quiet village, every day like the one before . . .”

PrologueOn and on and on it went. My daughter wasn’t getting tired of the movie; she didn’t want to watch anything else, and she sure as hell didn’t want to go to sleep without her daily viewing. Sometimes we would get a different film in the rotation, and I would be spared from Belle, Chip, Cogsworth, and the rest for a few days, but sooner rather than later, she would go back to the Beast, and again I would hear “Little town, it’s a quiet village, every day like the one before.”

Even if your child picks your favorite movie in the world to watch every night, any period of time of repeated viewings of the same movie will drive you crazy. It was just worse for me that my daughter picked one of my least favorite films. Why do I dislike it? How could I hate the first animated film ever to be nominated for a best picture Oscar? What is there not to like about a successful film that has spawned a long-running Broadway musical and its own area in Walt Disney World? I have not one reason, but many for my dislike.

  1. I don’t enjoy the songs. I am a big fan of both Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, but neither the score nor the lyrics blows me away in this particular instance. I never feel like humming “Beauty and the Beast” or “Belle” or even “Be Our Guest” like I do with tunes from Aladdin, Lion King, or The Little Mermaid. There are no “Under the Sea” types of songs that get in your head and never leave. The two best songs in the film, in my opinion, are given to the villains: “Gaston” and “The Mob Song.” But they are not special enough for me to really be impressed with the musical output of the movie.
  2. I don’t care for any of the characters. Belle is OK, but I don’t feel there is much to her. Throughout the film you figure out she loves her dad and reads all the time. That is about all that I get. What does she want in life? What are her goals? Why does she fall in love with the Beast? I don’t know the answers to these questions. The Beast is another character that the film does nothing with. He must have Belle fall in love with him because he wants his curse broken, so his courting isn’t on the up-and-up. Yes, he does fall in love with her and frees her in the end, but this is after he has imprisoned her, yelled at her, and then tried to buy her love. I don’t see him as a romantic figure; I see him more as a criminal.The sidekicks in the Beast’s castle are just as bad. They are trying to make this poor innocent girl fall in love with a man who is selfish and has a horrible temper simply because it will benefit them in the long run. I don’t see anything noble or endearing about this at all. Yes, the staff got a raw deal because they were cursed along with the castle, but selling a woman out for your gain does not make it right.
  3. I don’t find the movie exciting, funny, or well paced. The two characters fall in love very quickly and have no time to build the relationship because Belle has to leave the castle to try to save her dad. Then she is back, they kiss, and the credits roll.
  4. I have probably seen the first 20 or 30 minutes of the movie over a hundred times, but not the rest of it. This is because after my daughter fell asleep, my wife or I would rush over to turn off the movie as quick as humanly possible. I am a person who gets annoyed when I can’t finish something I start. (I suffered through the last three agonizing seasons of How I Met Your Mother because I wasn’t bailing on it after all the good years.) As much as I disliked Beauty and the Beast, it was even more torture to know that I would have to watch the same parts of the film over and over again. This may not seem like a big deal, but spend a week watching the same 20 minutes of a film over and over without finishing the film even once, and see how you feel.

These are the big reasons I don’t like the film, but the simplest explanation is that it just didn’t hit me like it did the rest of the world. All of us have looked at something really popular and beloved at one time or another and said, “I don’t get it.” This was one of those times for me. I never understood the popularity of this film and could never join in with the love and sing-alongs.

Lessee if this dohicker'll workIt was fate, then, that my daughter would be obsessed with the film and everything that went along with it. She had Belle dresses, owned every Barbie and action figure that went with the movie, and wanted to listen to the songs on YouTube. When we went to Disney World, we had to meet Belle twice and sit through Belle’s Story Time and the abridged version of the musical at Hollywood Studios. When our town’s local theater put on a version of the Broadway musical, we of course had to go. I am not exaggerating when I tell you the story has been stretched out to over a sanity breaking two and a half hours. To me, it felt like a week.

My daughter’s obsession with the movie ended about six years ago. She still watches it on occasion, but not with me. She watches it while getting ready for bed, while she is playing with her younger sister, or while in the car when we are driving somewhere. This is both a blessing and a curse: I don’t have to suffer through the movie anymore, but she is not snuggling into me while watching it. I am not stroking her hair and feeling her slowly fading to sleep. I am not looking at my baby as she watches it and marveling at how beautiful she is and how lucky I am.

Movies can not only convey emotion but also give you a time marker in your own life. One reason I love E.T. so much is that when I watch it I feel like I can reach back into the ’80s and grab a piece of my childhood for a couple of hours. With Beauty and the Beast, although the movie was made in the early ’90s, for me it is stamped 2007–2008, when I had to suffer through it countless times. But when I see or hear part of the movie now, I don’t think about how much I dislike it; I remember what my first-born daughter smelled like as a baby/toddler (a mixture of no-tears shampoo and diaper powder). I can feel her smooth baby skin against my fingers, because she used to hold my hand while watching the movie and falling asleep. I remember the joy of being able to turn off the damn film but also the love I felt when I would then pick up my sleeping child, carry her into her room, tuck her into bed, and give her a final kiss good night.

The father's nightmareI still snuggle and watch films with both of my girls, and now that they are older, I am getting to expose them to better movies and different ones all the time. It is a blast to see what they get out of the story, action, comedy, etc., and I love talking to them after the movie is over. Watching films with them just gets better and better as they age, but there is a part of me that misses them being so small with a one-track mind. Right now they might love watching movies with their dad and like the films that I pick out (at least most of the time), but I know what the future holds.

I know that in just a few short years I might ask my daughters to watch or go see a movie with me and get an answer of “I am going with friends to see it” or, even worse, “My boyfriend is taking me to see that.” I know that soon when I say we should watch a movie they will roll their eyes or tell me that the movie I am suggesting is stupid. So I love our movie nights and each year feel a bit different about Beauty and the Beast. Maybe someday, when the girls are living on their own, I will hear “Little town, it’s a quiet village, every day like the one before” and not shudder. I might hear those opening notes and get a bit choked up. I might look at the film with new eyes and remember being a new parent, and all those nights with their sounds and smells . . . and maybe I’ll keep watching. Who knows, this time I might even get to the end.

Posted by Ryan

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