Evans as Gaston and Gad as LeFou
Disney's live action adaptation of Beauty and the Beast sparked predictable backlash with its much hyped "first gay character." Does LeFou (Josh Gad) live up to the hype? Yes and no. The character, and Gad's endearing portrayal of him, are a highlight of the film, but this latest raiding of the Mouse House vaults is just as unnecessary as the rest.
The new Beauty and the Beast boasts an impressive pedigree in front of and behind the camera. Directed by openly gay Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters, Kinsey), the film stars Geeks OUT's patron saint Sir Ian McKellan (Cogsworth), Ewan MacGregor (Lumiere), Tony winner Audra McDonald, and rumored-to-be-gay hunk Luke Evans as haughty villain Gaston, among others. Sexy Dan Stevens, so compellingly villainous in The Guest, is merely a serviceable Beast. But it's Gad and Emma Watson (Belle) who steal the show with their vibrant performances. Watson is a natural for Disney and she imbues her role with strength and vulnerability; she's also got a solid singing voice. Gad, who has wonderful chemistry with Evans, Broadway-bred pipes, and crack comic timing, makes LeFou memorable not just for his gayness but for his character evolution over the course of the film. Sure, he's not exactly "out and proud" and the much ballyhooed "exclusively gay moment" is brief, but it's still nice to see a likable and unmistakably queer costar in a big budget children's flick.
LeFou's arc is one of a number of tweaks to the original story, like Belle's tragic family backstory and Gaston's history as a soldier. These changes add some surprise for those familiar with the original movie, but unfortunately none of the original moments, like the "Be Our Guest" number or the ballroom dance, land with the same vibrancy as in the 1991 version. In the case of the opening prologue, which needlessly adds in an elaborate masked ball more appropriate to The Phantom of the Opera, the effect is entirely ruined. Witnessing Stevens's make-up and powdered wig, my friend joked, "five seconds in and this is already totally gay."
Evans and Gad hug it out on set
Ultimately, the cast and crew make a mighty effort, but nothing can distract from the fact that this remake of an animated masterpiece never needed to be made—except as a cash grab.
Queerness: 3 (for LeFou and overall gay-friendly musical theater trappings)