Movie Review by Kris Griffiths
Starring: Paige O’Hara, Robby Benson, Richard White, Jerry Orbach
Directors: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
One of my earliest memories is my first ever cinema visit at about four years old when my granny took me to see LADY AND THE TRAMP. It was, of course, a life-changing experience for a small boy to witness a Disney classic on a screen that seemed a million times bigger than the tiny telly at home from which one was force-fed daily cheap cartoons of the ‘Roger Ramjet’ variety. Inevitably, as the years have whizzed by my interest in animated films has somewhat disappeared, inciting cries of ‘ignoramus!’ from certain friends who always go on about how much Disney films appeal to adults as well as kiddiewinks. Yeah, yeah.
Well I can now safely assert that BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is the first Disney film I’ve sat through since childhood days that has not only appealed to my, um, adultness but has been an experience almost as life-changing as the first one. It was so bloody brilliant that I now want to lock myself in my bedroom for a weekend with the entire animated Disney back-catalogue. Seriously.
First released in 1991 and narrowly missing out on the Best Film Oscar to THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (you couldn’t really get two films more different from each other), this special edition has been released to commemorate its ten-year anniversary. Primarily adapted for those huge IMAX screens, the animation has been reformatted and the music remixed, including a brand new six-minute musical sequence omitted from the original. The captivating story-line remains the same: beautiful village girl Belle snubs the advances of macho brute Gaston, her father somehow finds himself imprisoned in the beast’s castle down the road, she rescues him and replaces him as the eternal prisoner, then in order to break the spell on the beast and his castle she must fall in love with him, but not before Gaston gets a whiff of it all and sticks his nose in. But they all live happily ever after (apart from Gaston who dies a horrible death).
An embellishment on the original fairy tale is that all the castle’s servants were put under the same spell as the prince and were turned into talking household objects. Acting as a sort of chorus, they provide much of the film’s sharp humour. In fact, I laughed more throughout this movie than most other comedies I’ve seen this year (gag sample… Cogsworth the mantel clock discussing the castle’s design: “As I always say, if it ain’t Baroque, don’t fix it!”). The scenery and animation are artistically perfect, from the Gothic gloom of the beast’s castle to the visually stunning ballroom scene with its swooping and soaring camera trickery.
The beast itself is quite a bizarre creature, combining the body parts of a bear, a wolf, a gorilla, a wild boar, a buffalo and a lion. It ends up looking like a scary fat werewolf that would have scared the shit out of me if I were four years old. But through his ugliness and underlying goodness the themes of this timeless tale are illuminated: beauty is only skin deep and never judge a book by its cover. It is the good-looking Gaston who has the heart of a beast, and in good old-fashioned fairy tale justice, he gets his just desserts. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is a masterpiece and an irresistibly enchanting experience.