Posted by Matthew Thornton on Saturday, March 19, 2022

Director: Mamoru Hosoda
Writers: Mamoru Hosoda
Starring: Kaho Nakamura (voice), Ryô Narita (voice), Shôta Sometani (voice)
Runtime: 121 mins
MPAA Rating: PG

      Beauty and the Beast meets Ready Player One and a whole lot more in this eclectic animated drama from Japanese storyteller Mamoru Hosoda. High schooler Suzu (Kaho Nakamura) is unable to sing having lost the ability as a young girl after her mother died…that is until she creates an account in the anime metaverse. In this virtual universe called “U”, she becomes a pop singing superstar called “Belle” who draws crowds of people’s avatars to watch her perform. However, a beast called “The Dragon” appears and he is disliked because he is ugly, mean, and bad and has to be chased around by the “U” security force who have a ray gun that can dox people when their avatars are shot. Belle is led to his secret castle by an angel and the Beauty and the Beast section of the story begins where Belle penetrates his gruff exterior and seeks to understand why he is the way he is. The film is consistently distracted by various asides including Suzu struggling with self-confidence in the real world, a completely random subplot where she sets up two of her friends who like each other, and interactions with a whole host of unnecessary characters. Entering into the mystery-solving portion of the film, Suzu and her friends struggle to dox “The Dragon” before the “U” security force can. I honestly forget why they need to do this other than there needs to be a transition into the final act where, out of left field, the film turns into this severe PSA about how you need to intervene in childhood domestic abuse.

      Despite all the stuff that happens, Belle is shockingly boring and the visual intricacies feel hollow despite the seeming lack of creative boundaries. It also does not help that the music is not my cup of tea. The story meanders all over the place and revels in unearned sentimentality. This movie has no original ideas and attempts to combine as many unoriginal ideas as it can in bizarre fashion. Perhaps it could have been something coherent if it stayed focused on one or two of its story elements, but as it exists, I cannot recommend this to anyone.


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