They're Not Amused

By Speirs, Doug | Winnipeg Free Press, March 11, 2017 | Go to article overview

They're Not Amused


Speirs, Doug, Winnipeg Free Press


It looks like Disney's live-action remake of its animated classic Beauty and the Beast is going to be a real beast at the box office.

The movie opens March 17, but news reports suggest social-media buzz, ticket pre-sales and early positive reviews have given the film a shot at registering the biggest March opening weekend ever.

It will likely be a different story in Russia, where children under 16 won't be allowed to see the movie because it includes a gay character.

The Russian Culture Ministry imposed the 16-plus rating thanks to pressure from an ultraconservative lawmaker, Vitaly Milonov, who has been campaigning for the Disney movie to be banned.

In an angry letter released by a Russian news agency, Milonov groused it is wrong to screen a movie that disseminates "overt and shameless propaganda of sin and sexual perversion under the guise of a fairy tale."

What has Milonov so hot under the collar is the character of LeFou, the timid and lovable sidekick to the preening villain Gaston. LeFou spends much of the film in Gaston's thrall, and in a brief scene at the end is seen dancing with another male character.

If it does end up being kept out of sight anywhere, Beauty and the Beast will be in excellent company, based on our quirky list of the Top Five Goofy Films You Probably Didn't Realize Were Banned Somewhere:

The (not so) shocking film: Duck Soup (1933)

The (not so) insidious plot: What we're talking about here is the legendary madcap comedy classic starring all four of the Marx Brothers -- Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo. A satire on war and politics, it opened to mixed reviews, but is now considered among critics to be a comic masterpiece and the Marx Brothers' finest film. While making no pretense of being set in the real world, it poked fun at the erratic, thin-skinned dictators consolidating power in Europe at the time. It takes place in the fictitious Freedonia, a bankrupt country whose only hope of quelling citizen unrest is soliciting $20 million from a wealthy widow, Mrs. Teasdale, who agrees on the condition the country's current leader step aside for her hand-picked successor, Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho), a wisecracking charlatan with few redeeming qualities. Firefly shows up late for the inauguration and insults the ambassador for neighbouring country Sylvania. "If you think this country's bad off now," he quips, "just wait till I get through with it."

Who (really) hated it: Just before the movie premiered, the city of Fredonia, New York, complained the movie would hurt its fine reputation. In a letter to the mayor, Groucho wrote: "Your Excellency: Our advice is that you change the name of your town. It is hurting our picture." More furious was Benito Mussolini, the fascist Italian dictator, who took the film's assault on war and dictatorships personally, so he banned the film entirely in Italy. "Naturally, all the Marx Brothers were quite happy to hear that their film was being received so vociferously in fascist Europe," notes the website of Turner Classic Movies. "All their films were already banned in Germany, not because of their satirical jabs against fascism, but because the Marxes were Jewish."

4) The (not so) shocking film: Borat! Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)

The (not so) insidious plot: If you are like most people who saw this hilarious film, you cannot shake the mental image of British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen barely concealed in his "mankini." In the film, Cohen portrayed Borat Sagdiyev, a fictitious Kazakh journalist travelling the U.S. and chronicling real-life, unscripted encounters with unsuspecting Americans, who believe Borat is a hapless foreigner with no understanding of American customs. At a rodeo, for instance, Borat sings a fictional Kazakhstani national anthem to the tune of The Star-Spangled Banner, which (surprise) sparks a strong negative reaction from the cowboy-intensive crowd. …

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