Friday, October 21, 2011

10-20-11: Tale as Old as Time, Song as Old as Rhyme

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991) ***** D: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise. Paige O'Hara, Robby Benson, Jerry Orbach, David Ogden Stiers, Angela Lansbury

Of all the animated Disney films that followed it, not one has ever come close to matching the sheer power and majesty of this retelling of the classic fairy tale.

Very much an opera, where the songs tell the story, this film perfectly blends Broadway with cinema into a haunting and moving experience for all ages.

A young girl is held captive by a hideous beast who must find a way to win her affection or he will remain a beast for the remainder of his life. The castle is occupied by numerous enchanted objects that try to show Belle that there is more to the Beast then her eyes can see.

The music and lyrics by Menken and Ashman deservedly won the Oscars for Song and Score. At times light, breezy, witty and at others dark and foreboding, every song is a show-stopper. The opening number "Belle" is as grand as any Broadway number. "Be Our Guest" is rollicking and festive. "Beauty and the Beast" is haunting and moving. "Gaston" is hilarious. "The Mob Song" is dark and sinister. One great song after another provides this film with the heart but the story and acting provides it with its soul.

The vocal performances are unparalleled. The singing is top notch, all songs were performed by the actors. O'Hare and Benson are excellent as the leads but the other actors steal the show.

What can I say I loved this movie. It's at the top of list of favorite Disney films, not including Pixar.


I've seen this when it first came out in 1991. I also watched in 2002 when it was reissued in IMAX with a new song added "Human Again." The film did look great in IMAX. However, while the new song was entertaining it didn't seem to add anything to the story and felt redundant. A few lyrics in "Be Our Guest" actually cover what is in this new song and that's all the audience really needed to know about the castle's occupants.

The film is going to be reissued in 3-D in January 2012. Having seen "The Lion King" in 3-D I would have to say the 3-D isn't necessary. You don't need a gimmick to get people to see this film, the film sells itself. Either way, I'd say see it in a theatre when you have the opportunity.

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