Beautiful dreamer Belle sacrifices her freedom when the mysterious Beast catches her father trespassing in the woods. She offers to take over his punishment by doing time as a prisoner in the Beast’s creepy castle – a decision that ultimately transforms their intertwined lives.
The release of this film in 3-D brought up a lot of mixed emotions. Is it a money-grab by Disney or simply a way to introduce a new generation to this timeless classic? Both sides can be effectively argued, but there’s no denying this sweet tale. Beauty & The Beast stands out all the more now, given what it lacks: major celebrity voiceovers to drive tickets sales, Pixar-enhanced computer graphics and a script littered with winking pop-culture references. Instead it stands strong, the old-fashioned way: with Broadway-trained leads helming the main characters, original hand-drawn 2-D animation and a strong script based on a solid story of yore.
With “servants” like these, who needs Match.com?
I mean no disrespect to Angela Lansbury (Mrs. Potts) and David Ogden Stiers (Cogsworth), as they are surely celebrities in their own right – though their marquee effect doesn’t pack the same punch as Mike Meyers and Cameron Diaz (stars of the unstoppable Shrek juggernaut). Lansbury will be remembered by most as senior citizen catnip for her long run on Murder, She Wrote – but one has to look no further than the classic edition of The Manchurian Candidate to recognize her formidable acting chops. And Ogden Stiers sealed his resume with M*A*S*H* (though he’s still a favorite of mine as Lane Meyer’s (John Cusack) dad in Better Off Dead). It’s refreshing to embrace actors of this caliber who are willing to blend into an ensemble cast. Their humility stands in stark contrast to the forced laughter a donkey’s bray is supposed to elicit. Eddie Murphy, I’m looking at you…
Even though I want you to take a chill pill, I’m still gonna miss you at the Oscars! [Photo Credit]
Of course the stellar musical numbers, penned by the great team of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman (The Little Mermaid), take center stage. The rambunctious number “Be Our Guest” will still thrill children today. The movie has the unique distinction of being the first ever animated film to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture – an honor it held exclusively until Up was nominated for the same field in 2009.
There are a lot of items to check off in the plus column, but it’s still a Disney film with flaws. The addition of 3-D doesn’t add much to the already richly visual film. And if you’re wondering why the damsel in distress is the product of a broken family with a deceased mother and a roly-poly single father, you’re not going to get your answers here. The screenwriters carry on with the time-honored tradition of the motherless (soon to be) Princess contending with the forces of a witch. In this case, Belle’s apparent foe must deal with the damning actions of the evil trickster– but much of the old standard still applies. The happy ending comes wrapped in a bow, as expected, with beauty and a spoil of riches as the ultimate prizes. But will the kids care about these minor imperfections? Nope. And even cynical adults will be swept away by the earnest rendition of one of the most valuable films in Disney’s swollen vault.
My heart did melt a little. Okay, a lot!
Despite the doubt the addition of 3-D raises towards Disney’s motives, no one can deny the power of this sweet love story.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time someone refers to Belle’s smarts.
Take a Drink: during one of the many fantastic musical numbers.
Take a Drink: every time one of the Beast’s household staff tries to help set the stage for romance.
Take a Drink: every time you chuckle at the arrogant Gaston, Belle’s would-be suitor.