This weekend, SyFy rolled out the first of many planned fairy-tale updates with Beauty and the Beast. The venture was announced with enough pomp and circumstance to think that perhaps SyFy was finally embracing the camp appeal of their movies-of-the-week, and setting out to create a linked set of films—a grownup’s Faerie Tale Theatre.
Unfortunately, SyFy seems to have given this venture the same short shrift it’s given all its other movies, and their premiere effort ends up simply [beast-related pun].
Below the fold, five things you should know about Beauty and the Beast.
1. The plot. In the old story, a beautiful girl goes to live with a Beast in his castle in order to take her father’s place; there, she falls in love with the gentlemanly Beast despite his appearance, and her declarations of love save his life.
SyFy updated the story. The new plot of Beauty and the Beast, in two sentences:
Belle the washerwoman’s daughter sees a Beast in the woods, thinks he’s the cause of a murderous rampage in her village of thirty people, and makes a run for her life, ending up captured by an evil Duke, who has been propositioned by an evil witch, whose pet troll is actually causing the damage because she’s trying to frighten the Duke into marrying her, but by the time the heroic and beloved folk figure Sheriff Otto (you know him) has explained the Beast’s harmlessness to Belle, her mom has already been decapitated by the troll, who she immediately thinks is the Beast (she’s not too bright), except that Sheriff Otto points out that the Beast is the secret son of the King, who thought his son was dead, but he wasn’t, he was just disfigured by the evil witch because she took his life essence so that she could make a troll out of it thirty years later to trick people into thinking it was really the Beast, and Beauty tries to break the spell by kissing him, but that doesn’t work, so she breaks him out of medieval court, and they kill the witch, but THAT doesn’t work, and so finally they dip some arrows into one of the witch’s potions and go back to the village where the Duke is making his bid for the crown by ordering his pet troll to kill his competition, and then the Beast shows up and declares his birthright, except Beauty gets taken hostage by the troll and the Duke wants Beast to renounce his claim to the throne, so the Beast stabs the troll with his magic arrow, and that doesn’t break the spell, and so Sheriff Otto heroically tosses the Beast another arrow, which turns the Duke to stone, and THAT breaks the spell (of course it does), and then his clothes turn into magical prince clothes and he and Belle reign together forever and Sheriff Otto tells us in voiceover that the kingdom prospered forever and kept the two statues in the middle of the village to remember not to mess with their King, ever, or he’d turn them to stone, too. The end.
2. The casting. This cast was less traumatic than other SyFy casts, largely because there were no familiar faces to pain you with reminders that they used to have careers. Estella Warren, in particular, proved with this movie that she’s right where she belongs: far, far away on a B-movie set where she can’t accidentally ruin any good movies being filmed elsewhere. (I laughed out loud at least a dozen times during the movie, simply because her line readings were so unintentionally hilarious. It’s hard to explain how, “Because the woods are wonderful and beautiful” can be so funny, but trust me. Trust me.)
The other cast highlight was Rhett Giles as the evil Rudolph (yes). At first, he was noteworthy just because he’d forget about his American accent for sentences at a time, and I figured he was just new to it all. Then I saw his resume is almost entirely B-movies, and realized he just didn’t care what accent he was using, because he knew that only I would ever see it. Well-played, Giles.
3. The production values. Since this is SyFy, I don’t need to say “meager.” I should point out that Belle is the only woman in her village who wears a t-shirt minidress with a leather bustier on top and knee-high Uggs. She is not, however, the only person who ducks quickly out of a frame, only to reappear fifteen feet in the distance, pretending to be in the grip of a special effect. That one happens a lot. (A lot.)
4. The gore. The one place this movie did shell out was on the “oozing, headless torso” budget. Day player after day player found themselves in shallow troughs with tendony makeup on, covered in tinted corn syrup and asked to squeeze-bottle some additional up top so it looked like the carotid was still pumping.
There was also a soldier doomed to die by friendly crossbow fire, who leaned out his just-shy-of-second-story window looking like a hedgehog and croaked “Eeh! Oh! Ow!” for ten seconds before pitching himself onto the ground. Consider that scene chewed, sir.
5. The laughter. Did we talk about Estella Warren? Because she was amazing.
I would be lying if I said that this movie gave me any hope for the other adaptations SyFy has in the pipeline. I would also be lying if I said that I was not already planning to tape each one. You can’t get comedy like this if you ask for it; who am I to turn it away when it shows up on my doorstep?
Genevieve watched this movie twice, and still isn’t completely sure what exactly the plot was about. She talks about other awful films on her blog.