Beauty and the Beast 3D

What It Is

“Look, there she goes, a girl who’s strange but special,” sing the townsfolk at the start of Beauty and the Beast. “It’s a pity and a sin, / She doesn’t quite fit in, / ‘Cause she really is a funny girl.” Even as this gossip swirls — vibrantly and melodically — all around her, Belle (Paige O’Hara) makes plain her own ideas about her neighbors. “Little town, / Full of little people,” she sings, “There goes the baker with his tray, like always, / The same old bread and rolls to sell, / Ev’ry morning just the same.”

So begins the dilemma that shapes Disney’s gloriously entertaining 1991 movie. Belle is a good girl, she’s a beautiful girl and a dreamer as well, daughter of the town’s madcap inventor Maurice (Rex Everhart) and avid reader. She loves her dad but she’s bored with her “provincial life,” and so she yearns for a change. She can’t imagine, of course, that such change will come in a Beast (Robbie Benson). Yes, he’s actually a prince, cursed by a witch for being self-centered and arrogant. Feeling ugly and depressed, he’s all but given up on the possibility of the curse being broken, for the terms are awfully specific: he must fall in love with a girl and she must fall in love with him — as a Beast, roaring and grumpy and bad-mannered.

That the Beast is here comparable to the bully back in Belle’s village, Gaston (Richard White), makes especially clear his need to change. Being independent and self-confident, she puts off her suitor even as he assumes she must be his, because he wants her. Cleverly, the film suggests her thinking (she resists Gaston and the Beast, she dotes on her goofy father) as well as her suitors’, both the Beast and Gaston.

The story, as Mrs. Potts (Angela Lansbury) sings, is “as old as time.” It’s good to change: Belle finds her rightful partner because she moves past her first impression of the Beast; the Beast finds his perfect girl because he learns to be nice; and Gaston pays a price for his inability to transform, to grow up, to care about anyone but himself. Lessons to be learned: be open to new experiences, be generous, and be brave.

Why It’s Fun

The songs are wonderful, the voice performers are charming — especially Jerry Orbach as Lumiere the candleholder, Lansbury as Mrs. Potts, and White as the burly bully Gaston.

Based loosely on La Belle et la Bête, a fairytale published in 1756 by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, the cartoon is both colorful and witty, with dialogue and lyrics alike providing all kinds of pleasures to go along with the terrific 2D animation. Disney is plainly hoping to repeat the box office success of The Lion King’s rerelease in 3D, cashing in on the dearth of theatrical entertainments for kids in January, but it’s hard to be too mad at this crass aim, because it is actually fun to see the movie again, however unnecessary the 3D (and the extra cost to see it). That’s not to say that watching it again on DVD isn’t also satisfying (and obviously less expensive), but for families in search of an afternoon out, at least the movie is not insulting.

Unusually, the film also offers up a completely engaging villain, garishly self-confident and hilariously oblivious. He loves himself so much: as Gaston sings exuberantly, “As a specimen, yes, I’m intimidating!” Encouraged by his minions, he demonstrates, “I’m especially good at expectorating!” and (looky!) “I’ve got biceps to spare!” As aggressive and self-centered as he is, Gaston is still amusing.

Who’s Going To Love It

Fans who loved Beauty and the Beast when it was first released in 1991 will love it again. And children who never saw it in a theater will enjoy its bright, sweet enchantments.

What To Be Aware Of

The girls in town who love Gaston from afar and gossip about Belle live up to their designation as “the Bimbettes,” which means they’re not great role models.

The evil doctor who agrees to commit Maurice to an institution for a price is a standard villain: skinny, creepy, and one-dimensional.

The feather duster, Babette (Mary Kay Bergman) who flirts with Lumiere is also a stereotype, giggling at his forwardness: one scene has them maybe-embracing-maybe-just-playing behind a curtain, a whiff of sex that the film skips past.

Dark and stormy nights bode ill: the soundtrack music warns of impending dangers, as do the imposing shadows, but still, some scenes can be scary for very young viewers. These scenes include Maurice lost in the woods, then locked in the Beast’s dungeon cell, and Belle’s attempt to escape through the woods, when she’s attacked by large and snarly wolves.

Also, the Beast’s bullying is extreme at the start, though he’s quickly won over by Belle’s charms.

At film’s end, Gaston suffers an ignominious fate — he falls a long way to his death. The even is predictable, but also quite violent for a G-rated film.

See-It-Again Points

8 out of 10

Film Information

Beauty and the Beast 3D
Director: Kirk Wise, Gary Trousdale
Cast: Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson, Jerry Orbach, Angela Lansbury, David Ogden Stiers
Studio: Walt Disney
Year: 1991 (2012)
Rated: G
US Premiere: January 13, 2012
Official Website
Official Trailer
Movie Pictures

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