Belle and the Beast: Part 1
I’ve teased this puppy twice now, so it’s time for a bit of intro before we begin.
I saw Belle and the Beast: A Christian Romance on my local Christian station, and found out the fascinating history that followed: originally called Beauty and the Beast: A Latter-Day Tale, it was released in 2007, according to IMDB. Wierdly, though, IMDB shows the picture as the movie I saw, Belle and the Beast. If the DVD release dates on IMDB and Amazon are accurate, the Mormon references were scrubbed, and Belle came out on DVD a few months after Beauty.
The runtimes also show 92 minutes for Beauty and 91 minutes for Belle. I’m pretty sure I know what that Mormon minute was.
So here I am going to cover both Beauty (Mormon) and Belle (not-Mormon). A note before we begin: the subtitles of the movies notwithstanding, there are RTCs and others out there who do not think Mormons are “real Christians.” (They do the same with Catholics, as we’ve seen in the Left Behind and Underground Zealot series.) As far as I’m concerned, Mormons are Christians: they believe in Jesus as lord and savior, which makes them as Christian as any Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, or Anglican. So I’m going to try and avoid making reference to the “Christian” version versus the “Latter-Day” version, and instead do as follows:
Beauty = Beauty and the Beast: A Latter-Day Tale. This one came first.
Belle = Belle and the Beast: A Christian Romance. The edited version, shown on Christian television stations.
I will also note exactly where the two movies differ—what the edits are.
On with the show!
As we pan over what I can safely assume are the beautiful mountains of Utah, the narrator intones:
Once upon a time, in a land not unlike your own, there lived a beautiful young woman named Belle. She was kind and thoughtful, selfless and hard-working. Above all, Belle loved God and her family. Belle spent her time pursuing her education and working to help her family. She brightened the day of all who met her, with her cheerful outlook on life, a reflection of her faith. But in the same land lived one concerned with no one but himself. He had great wealth and lived in the utmost luxury. Yet no one envied him. He was a ruthless, cold-hearted man. His name was Eric Landry. Yet throughout the land, he was more commonly called The Beast.
A lot of this strikes me as stuff that could be acted out in the first act, not told, especially since we are dealing with a remake of a well-known tale. But what do I know?
During all this, we get a shot of Belle striding purposefully out of her (pretty nice) house and hopping into her car, then a pan of Eric’s cool, old-school mansion.
Then inside, where Eric’s housekeeper-cook (and apparently, his only help in this massive house), Mrs. Higgin. She is our Mrs. Potts substitute, I assume.
She slides Eric’s breakfast across the counter to him, like Eric’s house is a greasy-spoon diner or something. Now, granted, I am the kind of person who can barely look at food before noon, but this, to me, looks frakking disgusting:
Look at all that food! (And there are two eggs there—one is hiding behind the parsley.) Is this the only food Eric is allowed all week or something. Holy crap.
Eric, whom I immediately recognize as a man after my own heart, snaps that this is not breakfast, and Mrs. Higgin responds that she’ll toast him a bagel. Then she schluffs the whole mess into the trash.
What, lady, you didn’t think to ask him what he wanted before you set out on this mission to cook the entire house? I think this bit is meant to show that Eric is unappreciative of what he has, but to me, it just makes Mrs. Higgin look like an idiot. (It’s not like she’s new around here, either—it is implied that she’s worked for Eric for years. She should know his tastes.)
Meanwhile, we find that Belle works at an orthodontist’s office with her BFF, Anna. Anna has the makings of an interesting character, makings that are nearly destroyed because the director didn’t tell her to slow down when she speaks.
“Idunnowhatyou’regonnadowithanMBAanyway,” Anna says, so we know that MBA student Belle will be able to stand toe-to-toe with businessman Eric.
Anna is also Belle’s self-appointed wingwoman, and is trying to set up her cousin, Craig, with Belle. So we know who our Gaston substitute will be.
Back at Casa Landry, Eric is having an argument with his assistant, a very pretty young woman not granted the dignity of a name, right in front of the schlubby fireplace repairman.
The dialogue is so bad that I can’t tell who is right or wrong as far as the actual dispute goes, but it all culminates with this:
Assistant: Like you have a relationship with anyone.
Eric: You’re fired!
Assistant: Y’know what? Don’t bother. I’ve had my resignation typed up for weeks. *hand him the letter*
Eric: Well, then, judging by the date on this thing, I don’t have to pay you for the last few weeks, now do I?
Assistant: *stalks out*
Um…I’m not sure that’s quite how it works, Eric.
But never mind! The important thing is that one second later, the schlubby repairman stands up and swing around, knocking over and breaking a vase/urn type thingy.
Vase/urn type thingy, 0.224 seconds pre-breakage
Eric pitches a fit, which I can kinda understand. I mean, isn’t it the repairman’s responsibility to move breakables out of the way before he begins his work, precisely because something like this might happen.
Eric: This is worth the lives of ten people. Twenty, if they’re you!
Heh. I am actually sympathizing with Eric at this point. He really does seem to be surrounded by fools.
Eric informs Schlubby Repairman that he’ll be calling his boss in the morning, Schlubby Repairman whinily begs for his job, and Eric orders him out.
That night, Belle is fixing dinner for her tweenage brother and sister, Mike and Kelli. Mike serves no purpose whatsoever as a character, and his sole “trait” is that he snidely repeats other people’s words:
Belle: You’re lucky [that your teacher grades on a curve].
Kelli: Yeah, I know.
Mike: Yeah, I know.
Kelli: Mike, stop acting like a seven-year-old.
Mike: Mike, stop acting like a seven-year-old.
I don’t blame Kelli one bit. That would drive me crazy, too.
In Belle, this dialogue is simply cut out.
Belle calls her father to the dinner table. So, in both versions, this is the moment we find out that (gasp!) Schlubby Repairman is Belle’s father!
After dinner, Belle realizes that something is wrong, and gets her dad to admit what happened. There is a bit of subtlety here (or maybe I just want there to be): it is implied that Belle’s father is a chronic job-loser and generally a whiny, spineless wuss.
Again, I may be seeing what I want here.
Then again, the original Beauty and the Beast tale is kinda predicated on Belle’s father being a whiny wuss, no?
Belle’s Dad: The man’s a…a beast. … Mr. Landry is a powerful man, and a spiteful one. Everyone knows it: the church, the town, everyone.
Question: If everyone knows what a dick Eric is, why are Belle and her dad so certain that the boss will fire the dad on Eric’s complaint?
Oh, well. With a look that says she has walked this road before, Belle steps in to clean up her father’s mess (figuratively, at least; I assume Mrs. Higgin cleaned up the literal mess), and goes to Landry’s mansion. After being buzzed in by Mrs. Higgin, she wanders around the house to find Eric, who, for reasons best known to himself, is sitting outside on a bench in the snowy night, doing absolutely nothing.
I do not sit outside in the snow in the middle of the night for fun. But that’s just me.
Eric: So you’re the repairman’s daughter. You must be an idiot, too.
*snerk* I kinda like this guy.
Belle and Eric go back and forth on the issue, and the dialogue is not bad here. We’re probably meant to think of Eric as being really cold (and he’s out in the snow, har!) but to me, he makes a valid point that no matter the financial straits of the Watson family, Belle’s dad still frakked up and now he is out a vase.
Beauty vs. Belle Change!
Belle: Please, I have a sister and two brothers, one whom’s on a mission, and they need our support.
Belle: Please, I have a sister and two brothers, one who’s away at college, and they need our support.
Belle makes the situation seem a bit more dire. When boys are off on missions, aren’t their living expenses covered by the Church?
Either way, Eric suggests Belle’s mother find a job. Belle’s mother has been dead for years, of course, to which Eric responds, “lovely sob story,” which is a pretty good Dick Move. He’s also not impressed by the fact that, with only a part-time job, she complains about her family’s destitution, and I kinda get where he’s coming from, especially since she’s also pursuing an advanced degree. Not that she shouldn’t, mind you, but I see his point.
Naturally, they strike up the classic Beauty and the Beast deal, where she’ll work as his assistant until he feels the vase thingy is paid off.
The next evening, Belle has to blow off Anna’s setup of her and Craig, so she can work for Eric. And we get the first glimpse of our Gaston:
He kinda looks like a Made-for-Christian-Movies Matthew Lillard. Not a bad-looking dude, but also not very Gaston-like, especially next to the classicly handsome Eric Landry.
At Landry Mansion:
Eric: You have a name?
Eric: Good. When I ring, you come.
Belle: No, it means “beauty.”
Eric: *glances at her* If you say so.
Ha! Never change, Eric.
Belle is rather put out by the fact that Eric expects her to run errands, like picking up his dry cleaning. Clearly, she expects this job to be more along the lines of an internship, but more on that later.
Beauty vs. Belle Change!
Belle wanders around the mansion, trying to find Eric’s room so she can hang up his suits. She finds a Book of Mormon on a bookshelf.
Belle wanders around the mansion, trying to find Eric’s room so she can hang up his suits. She finds a Bible on a bookshelf.
Later, Mrs. Higgin serves up some pie for Eric and Belle. In a callback to Belle’s bookishness, Eric tasks her with organizing his books. Considering this is her first day and all, and considering the circumstances under which she is working, Belle does not take this request very well:
Eric: When you’re finished [with your snack], I want you to alphabetize the books.
Belle: Are you sure? I can do—
Eric: I want you to alphabetize the books.
Belle: You know, I can do more than filing and alphabetizing of you want; I’m pretty organized.
Eric: Well then, it shouldn’t be a problem.
Okay, Eric’s definitely done some dickish things so far, but this time, I’m on his side. Belle is the assistant, so it is her job to do what he asks. What’s wrong, Belle, is organizing the books beneath you or something?
That night, Kelli and Mike are making dinner, because they’re good kids (except for the repeating-people thing). But everyone wants to hear all about Belle’s day!
Beauty vs. Belle Change!
Kelli: Last week in Sunday School, Sister Robertson used him as an example of pride and anger. … She says that’s what keeps him from coming to church. That, and the alcohol.
Kelli: Last week in Sunday School, Mrs. Robertson used him as an example of pride and anger. … She says that’s what keeps him from coming to church. That, and the alcohol.
Belle at least has the decency to say that Sister/Mrs. Robertson is “not nice” to do that, and yeah. Seriously, this is how Sunday School works (I have no firsthand knowledge here): teachers just take people from the community and run them down to the children as a lesson? Not nice, indeed. Also not mature or loving.
This is also our first hint that Eric drinks. Which is obviously a big deal both from a RTC and a Mormon standpoint. But so far, we have only seen Eric drink milk and orange juice, like a good Mormon.
The next day, Eric is a bit short with Belle, and she finds out that he plays basketball with himself to de-stress.
After that excitement, we get to something a bit more interesting: the increasing creepiness of Craig.
He shows up at Belle’s house after dinner unannounced, and asks her out for ice cream. She (none too excitedly) accepts, and he reveals that he has already brought two pints and spoons, so they can eat on the porch and chat. Which…is almost kinda sweet, but swings a bit too far into creepy and pushy.
And considering that they haven’t even had one date yet, Craig turns out to be more than a bit presumptuous.
Craig: Maybe it’s time you settled down, find somebody to take care of you.
Belle: I can take care of myself pretty well.
Craig: You know what I mean. Like a boyfriend…or a husband.
Belle: *chokes on her ice cream* Just haven’t found the right guy.
Craig: Maybe he’s sitting right next to you.
Dude! Slow down! I mean, confidence is attractive and all, but geez!
Belle calls him on this, but Craig isn’t one for listening:
Craig: Sometimes you just have to trust your feelings. And if you’re not sure, you can trust mine.
Belle wisely calls it a night. (Unwisely, she tells Craig the location of her second job.) Damn, we’re not even a quarter into the movie, and already the romantic rival has been revealed as a creepy stalker.
The next morning, Belle arrives at the mansion early, to find Eric in the hot tub. He tells her to find a book if she likes, and read until he’s done.
Beauty vs. Belle Change!
Belle reads the Book of Mormon, Third Nephi.
Eric lets Belle read for exactly twenty seconds before calling her back, which is kinda funny, since he had just opened a book himself. We are then treated to far more skin that I am accustomed to seeing in a Christian film, The Passion of the Christ notwithstanding.
Hubba. Also, I love her sweater and want it for my own.
Of course, Belle carried the Bible/Book of Mormon back in with her, which sparks a fight. Despite the book being, in Belle’s words, “a nice copy,” Eric demands she “get rid of it,” and, when she refuses, he tosses it into the hot tub.
Question: Are there nice and not nice copies of Bibles and Books of Mormon? Because both books like quite ordinary to me. It’s not like they’re gilt-edged or family books, is all I’m saying.
Beauty vs. Belle Change!
Eric: It’s just a book.
Belle: No, it’s scripture.
Eric: It’s just a book.
Belle: No, it’s God’s word.
This change, more than any other, confuses the heck outta me. Don’t those two things mean the same thing? Couldn’t they be used interchangeably? Is this lifelong atheist missing something here?
Anyway, Belle demands that he not be so disrespectful as to toss the book into the water, to which Eric sensibly responds that it’s his house and his book, and he can do what he likes. Which, again, yeah.
Despite the previous disrespect Eric has shown her, it is this incident which prompts Belle to make a midday rant call to Anna. Anna is a really good friend to Belle, here, and if the actress didn’t rush every single line, I wouldn’t have to rewind five times to understand how good a friend she is. But, in a nutshell, she talks Belle down.
(Moment of Hilarity alert: While having this conversation, Belle is packing a bag for Eric’s out-of-town business meeting. She grabs a slipper, sniffs it, makes a face, then tosses it into the suitcase.)
That evening, another rather humorous conversation takes place, as Kelli theorizes that since Eric is a rich, mysterious bachelor, he probably has a Batmannish secret identity and, if Belle plays her cards right, she could be Batgirl.
Why, in Christian movies, are the secondary characters always more interesting and amusing than the main ones. Belle is okay, I guess (though I have yet to see any evidence that she “brightens the day” of everyone around her, and Eric is not great as a “Beast.” His anger is so forced, and he comes across as nothing so much as a nice person who just can’t act believably angry. And together, they have decent chemistry…but nothing like the electricity between these two:
So sweet it makes my heart hurt.
Will Belle melt the Beast’s not-really-all-that-cold heart?
Will she ever stop whining about her work?
Will Craig become even creepier?
Will I swoon some more over Once Upon a Time’s Belle and Rumplestiltskin? (Yes.)