This below-average comedy becomes a disreputable slog by whoring out its cast for a studio’s marketing angle. It becomes socially harmful in the guise of good, a defiler in prophet’s clothing, when it promotes the fair representation of young girls in a film whose feministic prowess never exceeds petty and ill-conceived passes at men, whom Sony counter-marginalizes as comeuppance, as though the playground is the most intellectual arena to which feminism has ever gained access.
From Willem Dafoe approximating a German to Penelope Cruz approximating a maid to Judy Dench stretching no imaginations as a frowsy curd whose gaze would cure mustard, the train certainly carries cargo with the promise of becoming precious. But the cogs it winds up never outgrow their clock: the plot remands wit to the backstage of Branagh’s eyes and the film lulls almost indefinitely as soon as the mystery begins.
Christophe Gans admirably refers to Jean Cocteau’s 1946 La Belle et La Bête while presenting a version of the fairytale that should read as authentic even to those who have only seen the Disney one. What he does not do is capture the original’s symbolic poetry or frame the old pieces in such a way that their retelling is a revelation.
In Spade we find the perennial dark hero, the guy with toughness stitching up all the broken promises and empty bottles. Here’s the lusty dame with her own agenda. Here’s the story-less plot of dialogic violence. A villain like a plaster figure of deadly sins. A night capped by the hardest goodbye of the movies.