Belle and the Beast: Movie Review

bellebeast_dvd_lgOf all the stories I heard, and of all the Disney movies I watched when I was young, Beauty and the Beast was always my favorite.  There was something about the Beast’s rough exterior that appealed to me — all the while knowing that he just needed ‘someone’ to bring out his softer side.  That someone was Belle.  I always longed to be Belle, with her gorgeous yellow dress and that beautiful dance floor — dancing with the Beast, who, though hard to look at and sometimes fierce, was a Prince at heart.

Mom rented Belle and the Beast from Netflix, and last night she told us to watch it while she and dad went out.  I was not enthused at first because of the sacrilege it seemed to be to try to recreate such a classic story… especially because it is my favorite.  But we four sat down — my two sisters and my brother (much to his chagrin) — and popped the DVD in.

I will say I am not a fan of Christian romance books or movies.  I have found very few that are any deeper than your neighborhood mudpuddle and even fewer with true talent when it comes to the writing or acting.  Belle and the Beast is by no means a feat of cinematic expertise, but for a girl’s night, it does make a tear-jerking option.

The plot needs no explanation for anyone familiar with the story of Beauty and the Beast, which I wager that all of us are.  The difference is that it is set in modern times.  Belle is an ambitious and selfless young woman who goes to work for the city ‘Beast’, a wealthy man named Eric Landrie.  Through her influence, Eric’s hardened heart toward God begins to soften, as well as his demeanor.  He begins to fall in love with Belle. 

Belle also begins to care for Eric, but meanwhile she is trying to provide for her family along with her father, since her mother died several years before.  She not only works for Eric but also in an orthodontic office, while juggling her graduate studies as well.  She must also deal with the attentions of Craig, her coworker’s cousin, who does not seem to be easily dissuaded when it comes to his romantic intentions.  Yet through it all, Belle manages to maintain grace and composure, while still remaining true to her somewhat fiesty personality and adventurous tendencies.

I will not say that the acting is superb.  The lines are sometimes forced, and the script is occasionally wince-worthy, but if you can see past that, the modern twist on this classic tale makes Belle’s character all the more relevant and noticeable.  I found that seeing her person in a more recognizable setting allowed me to evaluate what made her who she was, and how I could make myself more like her.

Who knows, if I do, maybe I’ll meet a Beast!

The Tale of Despereaux: Review

Although I did not read the book The Tale of Despereaux, I did have the opportunity to watch the movie with some friends of mine, and I thoroughly enjoyed it!  Not only is it family friendly but it contains the little ‘profound messages’ so often included in animated films. 

There are several plots at work within the movie.  The film begins with a kingdom in a fairy tale country on ‘National Soup Day’, the kingdom’s favorite event.  During the tasting of the soup by the queen, a friendly rat (although no one knew he was friendly) fell into her soup and gave her a heart attack, killing her instantly.  Out of his grief, the king banned all soup and rats from the kingdom.

At this point I was sitting trying to digest (pardon the pun) what kind of movie I was watching.  National Soup Day killed the queen?  How random was that?!  But don’t worry, it gets better.

Because the kingdom was somewhat dependant upon the soup for its morale and industry, the whole nation went into a depression.  Even the skies turned gray.  The princess, whose father was still deep in grief, wished for someone to be her hero and bring the world back to they way it was.

At this time a young mouse is born named Despereaux.  As he grows up he shows none of the characteristics of what a mouse should be — frightened, scurrying, and cowering.  Because of these offenses, he is cast into the dungeon — which leads to the rat kingdom, a place of great decadence and wickedness.  No mouse has ever returned from the depths.

Without giving away any other tidbits as to the ending and plot, Despereaux becomes the princess’ ‘hero’ and with some help, changes the course of the nation’s history.  There are some very action-packed and suspensful scenes that may frighten little children, but as a whole I think this was a great movie for the family.  Despereaux’s devotion to virtue, courage and chivalry is a nice theme running throughout.  Overall I would say it’s ‘cute’; a nice option to go see with friends.

The Immovable Object

“You thought we could be decent men at an indecent time. But you were wrong; the world is cruel, and the only morality in a cruel world is chance.”                          

                    ~ Harvey Dent, The Dark Knight

Last night I went to see The Dark Knight at our local theater with two of my friends.  As is usual, I am the last person to see a movie when it comes out — it has been 2 weeks since the movie premiered.  Nevertheless, I was excited to finally see what everyone is talking about.  I thought I was pretty fortunate, as on one side my friend Margaret was as unprepared as I for what was to come, and on the other was Chris, who had seen the film before.  Thus, with one I could share the surprises, and with the other I could prevent myself from being surprised. 

The movie started out with a bang, and proved to be a series of successive ‘bangs’ after that.  The action was constant and fast-moving –sometimes hard to follow.  Your emotions never had a rest from suspense as the plot twisted every conceivable direction with each character.  Unpredictability was the recurring theme throughout the duration of the film.  And there were altogether too many explosions.

Yet there were other, deeper themes interwoven in The Dark Knight.  Though you may attend the movie simply for the sake of an adrenaline rush, you can’t help but leave with a need to think about what you have seen.  At first glance, it’s hard to grasp what the film makers are trying to say; but ultimately, the plot of The Dark Knight comes down to a question of morality.

Without giving away any spoilers for those who may be even further behind me in viewing this film (which I doubt is even possible), there are several points that were made by The Dark Knight.  These are culminated in one question:  does everyone have the same capacity for evil, simply waiting to be instigated to action by some outside source?

In many ways, each character in The Dark Knight is one of complexity.  There is no straightforward “hero” that we can whole-heartedly throw our heart into, rooting for him to beat the “bad guys” and carry the girl into the sunset.  This, perhaps, is the entire point of the movie.  Each person has his own darkness — his own point of failure which keeps him from being the “White Knight” we want to respect and admire.  Interestingly, the character who assumes this role through the first half of the movie ultimately digresses to the level of the conscienceless criminal.  This one person we want to place our hope in — the character we think we can trust — becomes the very evil he had been fighting at the flip of a coin.  He slipped from being a standard of goodness to a vengeful villain as soon as adversity met him head on.  It was all too easy.

The culmination of evil, the very “magnum opus” of wickedness, is accurately portrayed in the character of the Joker.  His person is so faceted, so diverse, that it is hard to put a finger on what exactly he is, and on a higher level, what motivates him.  The Joker is the purest form of evil, if those two words can be used in conjunction with each other.  He does not wreak his havoc for the sake of wealth or any material possession.  His is a violence enacted for the sake of violence; an evil bred for the simple reason that it is immoral and wrong.  “What the world needs,” he says, “is a higher class of criminal.” 

The fact that the Joker possesses no material motivation to his actions enables him to operate on a level far beyond that of the typical “bad guys” in the film.  He is immovably immoral, glibly killing without a qualm.  It is this conscienceless character that the Joker believes lives within everyone.  Each person has the potential to be the heartless murderer he has become.  There is a line in the movie:  “You make your own luck.”  The Joker’s mentality is that “you make your own morality.”  When you cease to make it, you turn to the evil that inevitably resides within you. 

Is everyone indeed on the brink of evil, ready to be pushed over by circumstance or pressure?  Is the quest for morality a worthless pursuit?  To some extent, the Joker is correct:  left to ourselves, our instincts are to serve ourselves, even if this is wrong.  We are born with an inclination to sin.  In a society based upon man’s natural “morality”, then, a degradation into the Joker’s nonchalant approach to sin should come as no surprise.  But where The Dark Knight left us without a hope for goodness — without a hero or an ultimate morality — we have access to a truth. 

 “This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object…”                                  ~  The Joker

In the case of the Joker, and all the “bad guys” in the film, the “immovable object” was their own deranged and demented selves.  Their wickedness was so thorough it was insurmountable.  But apply this thought to one standard of morality: it is indeed an “immovable object”, and all the “unstoppable forces” of the world could not change it.  The only morality in a cruel world is not chance — chance in itself is nothing.  In a cruel world, the standard of morality must come from without or it will be inherently corrupt.  The standard must lie with a perfect God.  This morality transcends that of man in a pointy black suit huskily pronouncing the hopelessness of human decency.  This is immovable; this is unchangable.  This is morality.

With the exception of the violence of the movie, I would definitely recommend it for an interesting look into the mindset of some members of our society.  It is the inverse of the typical “everyone has some good in them” worldview that is popular today.  Everyone can strive for good, but ultimately, good is found in the Lord:

“And Jesus said to them, “Why do you call me good?  No one is good except God alone.”  Mark 10:18

And with God, morality is our guide.  Then we can do as Batman was advised:

“Endure, Master Wayne.  Take it.  They’ll hate you for it.  But that’s the point of Batman, he can be the outcast.  He can make the choice that no one else can make… the right choice.”