Before I had kids I had seen a lot of Disney animated movies. Now that I have kids, I have seen almost all of them. Multiple times. I never watched Beauty and the Beast growing up because it was girl movie. I could probably recite the whole thing by now. One thing I’ve noticed, and it bothers me more and more with each re-watching, is that Belle’s dad is a piece of crap.
In the vast majority of Disney movies, the father character falls into two categories: jerk or dead. There are a few exceptions – Marlin (Nemo’s dad) is alive, and not quite a jerk but not winning father of the year either. Sleeping Beauty’s dad (King Stefan) is alive, but essentially useless to the plot. Andy’s dad is a sperm donor. Then you have Maurice (Belle’s dad), who is an absolute buffoon and probably deserves to be killed off.
Let’s start from the beginning. He’s an alleged inventor, but it seems to me he hasn’t invented anything useful. His reputation around town is “Crazy Old Maurice”, not “Maurice the Inventor”, or even just Maurice. His latest contraption is the automatic wood chopping machine, which takes already cut pieces of wood and chops them into smaller pieces. Way to streamline the process by that last 5%. He’s also invent his own tools, whose only use it seems is to work on his own inventions. Also not super practical. Though now that I think about it, I assume that is how the Allen wrench came to be. Some dude named Allen invented half built furniture and the tool required to build the other half.
Anyway, it seems his best invention is completely glossed over as nothing more than the vehicle for a sight gag – his front door periscope. Crazy Old Maurice has invented the first smart home security system, but a wood chopping machine is what he brings to the fair? What did he do with his goose that laid golden eggs, turn it into sausage?
Now that we’ve established he’s terrible at his job, let’s move on to him being a complete moron. On his way to the fair he starts getting lost in the creepy woods – despite the fact that he clearly has a map. And naturally, his response to getting lost in the creepy woods is to take an even creepier short cut. Makes sense. Even his horse is like, hey mon ami let’s stick to the road here. Congratulations Maurice, you’re dumber than a horse.
So of course he forces his horse down the dark and creepy short cut, and of course he gets more and more lost. Now here is the part that is really infuriating. Now this dolt has the stones to blame the horse. While still unable to read his map, he says “Where have you taken us Phillipe?” Where have you taken us Phillipe?! Yeah, go ahead and blame the horse who was trying to tell you all along that you’re doing the wrong thing. Dick. He absolutely deserves to get eaten by the wolves that come chance to to the Beast’s castle.
Let’s shift gears now to the live action version of the movie, where now Maurice also becomes a selfish jerk. After placing full blame for his failure on his noble steed, Maurice now picks a rose from somebody else’s garden. Which, sure, not a big deal, but c’mon guy have some manners. Now that we know he doesn’t value other people’s things, are we totally shocked when we walks into the castle and helps himself to somebody else’s food? Yep, just strolls right in, takes a seat by the fire, and gets down on some charcuterie. The Beast was right to throw him in the dungeon.
Of course the ultimate selfish move, letting Belle come in and take his place…and people think Gaston is the bad guy? Every bad thing that happens in this movie is set into action by something stupid that Maurice does. Hands down, the worst Disney dad – including the dog in 101 Dalmatians who had way more kids then he’d ever be able to support.
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