Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Homely Hunchback

Ah, yes. It has been awhile since I wrote one of these...but trust me, I've been cooking up several ideas. Today, I'll regale you with the tale of lies, lust, and a boy who was beautiful on the inside, but slightly less than mediocre looking on the outside.

Today I'll share with you the story of the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

The story begins with illegal immigration.

One dark cold night, an incredibly shady-looking ferryman is sneaking a small band of gypsies into Paris. Any viewer can feel the tension, the need for secrecy...except the baby one of the women is carrying. He just starts hollering like it's no ones business.

As they dock, the ferryman tries to collect for his troubles, when all of a sudden a troop of soldiers materialize from nowhere! A trap! They put all the men in manacles and hall them off to the infamous "Palace of Justice," the woman remains behind, and the bundle in her arms arouses suspicion. No doubt causing the leader of the soldiers, the evil judge Claude Frollo, to think it's illegal narcotics. He orders the remaining soldier to confiscate the bundle/baby, but somehow the woman escapes.

We find her running down the back streets of Paris, being hotly pursued by Frollo on his evil looking horse. As I watch this scene, the theme music from COPS definitely popped into my head at least once or twice. Can't you just see it?

The gypsy woman manages to elude Frollo long enough to make it to Notre Dame where she bangs on the door repeatedly, calling for sanctuary. But it's too late! The judge curb mounts with his horse, and rides it right up to her. He grabs the "bundle of stolen goods", they struggle, he gives her a Chuck Norris kick to the face, she falls and hits her head. She dies....on the steps of the church.

Pigs: 1
Gypsies: 0

In a strange plot twist (that isn't really a plot twist to the viewers, 'cuz we know it's a baby), Frollo is shocked to find that the bundle he's holding isn't crack, but it's a living breathing...thing. Apparently the baby got some ugly genes, which is kinda surprising given the mom isn't all that bad looking!

He looks around frantically for something to do with this monster-child. There's a well conveniently located across the courtyard. We, the viewer, can just see the idea light-bulb go on in Frollo's head. But just as he stretches out his arm over the great black opening, and prepares to drop our (spoiler alert) protagonist into the well, we hear an urgent cry of "Stop!" coming from the church.

Apparently it takes the priest a while to get out of bed, when someone is frantically calling for sanctuary at his door, but he did come out. And now, in true clergyman fashion, it's time to lay some guilt on the simple common person.

The Father tells/sings to Frollo about how he's just a bad person 'cuz he kicked a lady and she died on the steps of a holy cathedral. And he also tells Frollo that, should he drop that baby in the well, he'll probably burn in Hell. 'Cuz you know how those Catholics feel about baby killing.

Granted, killing a woman carrying a child probably already got him a spot there, but Frollo is shaken. He asks the Father what he's to do. The Father (who obviously doesn't have a social services degree) tells Frollo to care for the child, and raise him like his own.

Yeah. Great idea Mr. Priest. That won't be an awkward conversation someday.

"Uh, son, when you were a child...well, I'll just be frank. You were so ugly I almost dropped you down an icy well."

Yeahhhhh.

Anyway, naturally Frollo is repulsed, but acquiesces under one condition; that the child live hidden away, in the bell tower so no one can see how ugly he is.

Enter opening credits.

We find ourselves next in the bell tower, with a grown-up Quasimodo. Our hero sings a song about how cool it'd be to leave the bell tower, and one can't help but warm up to the guy. I mean, yeah he won't be doing modeling for JCrew any time soon, but he seems to have a warm heart that glosses over the less than stellar outer shell.

It's here that the viewer begins to see the theme running through this movie. I'll keep it a secret till later. ;)

After the song we see Frollo come up to have a meal with Quasi, and they start rehearsing the alphabet, each letter synonymous with some sort of horrid thing that Quasi is to believe about himself. Remember what I said earlier about the priest not being educated in social work? Yeah.

Unfortunately, Quasi let's slip that he wants to go to the Festival of Fools, thus pissing of his Master. He's told to forget it, and to never think of it again. If anyone saw Tangled, you know how well this'll work!

Quasi ends up going. He also manages to stumble in on the lovely Esmeralda who is prepping for her show. Atta boy Quasi! First/ only day out right? Go big or go home!

She helps him up, and as he's leaving she tells him what a great mask he has on. Ohhh snap. Course he's too hung up on how beautiful she is to realize, he just got burned.

As the festival kicks into full swing, it comes time to crown the King of Fools. Basically this festivity works the opposite way of a beauty pageant. You gotta have one ugly mug to win this one.

Quasi wins. And when people realize that "mask" is his real face they flip shit! Best Feast of Fools ever right?! Our boy wins a crown, and a cape, the crowd is happy...oh yeah, and Quasi's master knows he's out of the tower. Cover blown.

Soon the party turns nasty though; I guess all good things have to come to an end.

The drunk carnival goers decide it'd be fun to have a food fight. Everyone, against the King of Fools! They rope him down and throw a bunch of crap at him, Frollo does nothing to intervene. It's actually his new friend Esmeralda who does. She defies the presence of law, and frees Quasi, doing some social justice speech while she's at it.

Thus stirring the wrath of the law, and capturing the interest of the Captain of the Guard. Phoebus. You can imagine the job stress it will create for Ol' Phebes, as his job description entails "helping Frollo root out, and rid Paris of the gypsy infestation." But, eh. C'est la vie.

The next sequence of events is mostly a blur, building to the climax of the movie. Let me sum up for you...


Esmeralda is trapped in Notre Dame, soldiers guard every door waiting for a chance to take her into custody. She hangs out with Quasi a bit. 
She begins to see what a beautiful person he is...on the inside. 
Quasi gets the hots for Esmeralda. 
Helps her escape. 
Phoebus looks for Esmeralda 'cuz he has the hots for her too. 
Quasi and Phoebus have alpha male issues. 
Frollo starts burning the city down in pursuit of Esmeralda, 'cuz he has the hots for her. 
Phoebus and Quasi have to team up to save Paris...and Esmeralda.

What is this?!!?  General Hospital?

The film climaxes when Quasi and Phebes find the fabled "Court of Miracles." Which is apparently gypsy that translates to "hideout in a French crypt." No lie. This entire city is in the catacombs. Ew. They try to warn the gypsies of the coming danger, when all of a sudden Frollo shows up with a battalion of soldiers.

They arrest all the gypsies, and all of Paris is told to come see Esmeralda burn for witchcraft. Nothing like a good old witch burning to raise the spirits of a city huh?

Frollo offers Esmeralda one more chance to "repent" which would mean marrying him, 'cuz let's be honest, this old man wants to get him some!! She, of course, spits in his face. As. She. Should. Seriously, creeptastic old man wants to marry her? He ain't Hugh Hefner folks. So Frollo lights the fire.

All the while Quasimodo, chained in the bell tower, is standing by, pouting because she only thinks of him as "just a friend." Ugh. Hate it when that happens. But suddenly, maybe at the prospect of seeing his friend burned to death, he pulls a Samson and breaks his chains, swooping down at least fifteen stories on one rope. And pulls her out of the flames.

Frollo is pissed, naturally. Some people break out of their cages, and the battle of Paris begins.

Needless to say, the good guys win. Evil Frollo plunges to his death and, in all likelihood, burns in Hell forever. And justice prevails, without the loss of any major characters in the process.

But the end of this story pisses me off to no end. I'll tell you why, since you asked.

Quasi, doesn't get the girl.
He doesn't.

He helped her escape the law. Put his life in danger trying to warn her of the coming attack on the Court of Miracles. Broke some seriously heavy chains and swung down the face of a cathedral, fought of guards, and saved her from burning to death...and he doesn't get the girl.

Who does?

Phoebus. The Captain of the Guard. A man in uniform. Which is not to say this guy doesn't have his moments. He's downright heroic at times too. So why does this ending annoy me so?

Because the whole theme of this movie is that "it's not about how you look on the outside, what matters is what's inside." BS. See the end of this movie, and you'll find that natural selection won out. Esmeralda went with the better looking genes. I mean, who's going to impress mom and dad more when she brings him home for dinner? The guy in shiny golden armor? Or the homely hunchback?

And, let's be honest, if the guy who single-handedly rallied Paris to stand up against oppression, has sweet acrobatic skills, dreamy forearms, and saved a woman from burning to death, doesn't stand a chance with the ladies...

Where does that leave plain-ol' guys like me??

I sigh as the joyful townsfolk carry Quasi off into the sunset in the closing scene. I think of the last time they did something like that...the feast of fools, and shake my head sadly. I just know that he's going to end up with another face full of fruit...

But isn't that just how life is?

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