We saw the new version of Beauty and the Beast about a week ago, and it was really great. I can highly recommend it to everyone I know. (And of course, if you haven't seen it, I also highly recommend the animated version, which is pretty fantastic.)
And I'm glad to say that America seems to concur. It's been breaking all kinds of box office records.
For example, in the live action movie, Belle (played by Emma Watson) is not just a pretty girl who likes to read- she's a family girl, an inventor who is taking after her father, and has quite a bit of pluck. We also see her as a real person- wanting to be liked, and at least considering whether or not she should ditch her dad and be more like everybody else. She ends up making the noble choice, but this makes her more likable and less generic as a heroine. And for the first time, we see the Prince before he becomes the Beast, and it seems like maybe he's got some kind of come-uppance coming to him. His story is more fleshed out, as are the stories of nearly all of his enchanted courtiers as well.
A great example of this is in the song Gaston, where LeFou and the townspeople are bolstering the spirit of Gaston, who has been rejected by Belle, they added a portion of the song to show off Gaston as cruel:
GASTON: When I hunt I sneak up with my quiver
And beasts of the field say a prayer
First I carefully aim for the liver
Then I shoot from behind
LEFOU: Is that fair?
GASTON: I don't care.
There's been a large controversy about the "Gay" LeFou. Lefou is Gaston's sidekick. In the cartoon, he's just a dumb but lovable sidekick, a direct ripoff of Captain Hook's Smee. In the remake, LeFou (played by Josh Gad) is being billed as "Disney's first openly gay character." Gad is great- rather foppish, and funny, and he has some ethical dilemmas about Gaston's lying and cruelty. But for some reason, the focus has been on his gayness, and the fact that he's the first gay Disney character.
I find that hard to believe (here's a list of possibly gay characters in the Disney lexicon, which includes Hades from Hercules, Ursula from the Little Mermaid, and (not listed) Cruela DeVille from 101 Dalmations.)
Having seen the movie, I was surprised that there was any controversy at all. If they didn't say "This character is gay." I think you'd be hard-pressed to know it. Yes, he does seem infatuated with Gaston (although weirdly can't spell his name) and massages him at one point, but everything is pretty innocent. The one moment that people seem to object to is at the end during a dance, when Lefou ends up dancing with a male character. (That character by the way, during the battle, was dressed up like a woman by the enchanted wardrobe, and seemed to like it.) This is not explicit at all, there's no same sex people hugging or kissing. I think there's been much more explicit stuff in other movies.
At any rate, if you happen to be afraid that your kids will be exposed to something gay, you have nothing to fear from LeFou. As Randy Rainbow says in this incredibly funny parody song.
"When I bring my young children to a lavish musical with fabulous costumes starring the hot guy from Downton Abbey and featuring 6 time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald, it isn’t to make them gay- it’s to make them extra straight. I say we Kill The Release! "