Beauty and the Beast Reviews

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Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
June 13, 2013
The Disney Renaissance was underpinned by two major shifts in Disney thinking. One was a move back to the fairy tale and fantasy territory that had underpinned the Golden Age, and the other was a more confident and forthright approach to production and promotion. Disney spent much of the 1980s figuring out exactly what kind of stories they wanted to tell and how they wanted to sell them, and after many failed but interesting attempts, they finally hit lucky with The Little Mermaid.

But even with Mermaid's critical acclaim and box office success, Disney's return was by no means solidified. Their tactics of releasing films in quick succession suffered a setback when The Rescuers Down Under slipped under the radar, where it has remained somewhat ever since. It would take something really special to finally convince critics that Disney was well and truly back - and that special something was Beauty and the Beast. Even after 22 years, it still stands proud and untarnished as the perfect jewel in Disney's second crown.

In my review of Atlantis: The Lost Empire, I spoke about Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise being far more accomplished dealing with adaptations than they are with original stories. They are masters of taking a pre-existing, often reputable source, and channelling its darkness in a way that younger audiences can appreciate. The version presented here is hardly the most faithful to the original fairy tale (though such terms are problematic, considering the many different versions of all the classic stories). But it is extremely faithful to the spirit of the story and plays it straight, taking all the magical elements at face value.

This new-found confidence of Disney is plain to see throughout Beauty and the Beast. There are numerous scenes which draw on the company's back catalogue and invoke past glories, but unlike the wilderness years these references are driven by a desire to celebrate the past and integrate the present, rather than just film up the frame. There are big nods to Snow White in the opening scenes, with Belle's interaction with the animals mirroring that of her historical counterparts. The montages in 'Be Our Guest' look back to Fantasia, as do the dancing mops in 'Human Again' (which was cut from the original release). More esoterically, Gaston's character design owes a fair deal to that of Brom Bones in The Adventures of Ichabod & Mr. Toad.

The big question that's always raised regarding Beauty and the Beast is whether or not the film promotes Stockholm syndrome - the psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy, sympathy or affection towards their kidnappers over a prolonged period. The line of argument goes something like this. Belle is initially repulsed by the Beast, as any sensible person would be, and only falls in love with him as a result of being imprisoned by him. What seems like a genuine unlikely romance that succeeds against all odds is in fact an unfortunate psychological trauma, to which our heroine is condemned forever.

It may be fashionable and convenient to invoke, but in terms of the plot this argument holds no water. While it is true that Belle chooses to stay in the castle, she does so out of devotion to her father rather than affection for her captor. Her relationship with the Beast is strained at first and she continues to exercise authority, even when it will put her at opposition to him - in contrast to those with Stockholm syndrome, who end up fawning over their captors.

When the Beast rescues her in the forest (having allowed her to flee), she is genuinely thankful and repays kindness with kindness, not because she feels psychologically bound to, but because that was always in her nature. Finally, when the Beast allows her to go and save her father, she leaves freely of her own accord, and as before the Beast makes no effort to stop her or beg her to return - much to the amazement and despair of his loyal servants.

This line of defence also hints at another success of the film: its heroine. Belle is a far more rounded character and a far better role model than Cinderella, and the film has very different emphases compared to other Disney princess films before or since. A lot more time and care is given towards her intelligence, resourcefulness, independence and morality, setting her up as a genuinely likeable character who is more grown-up and worldly than, say, Aurora. Yes, she may be beautiful on the outside, but there's so much more to her than that.

Beyond Belle, the characterisation throughout Beauty and the Beast betrays immense care and attention to detail. The vast majority of the supporting cast don't appear in the original story, but genuine thought has gone into every last one of them, and many of the character decisions are both creative and imaginative. The physical characterisations match up beautifully with the personalities - Lumiere is light and greasy, Cosworth obsesses over punctuality and order, Mrs. Potts is warm and homely, and Chip is impish and precocious. If nothing else these decisions bring real character and coherence to this world, grounding the audience in their logic while always preserving the magic.

The visuals of Beauty and the Beast reflect the desire to find the magic and ethereal in the potentially ordinary. The whole colour palette has a blue tinge to it, extending to the dark shadows of the Beast's cloak in one direction and to the uninviting snow in the other. The film captures all the visual ingredients of the European fairy tale (forbidding castles, dark woods, close-knit villages, etc.) and presents them in the most ravishing way possible. It's as though Disney were attempting to justify its entire iconography through the strength of its animation, and suffice to say it works wonders.

The film runs a whole gamut of emotions and is masterful in shifting from and balancing different tones. Linda Woolverton, who also worked on The Lion King, understands the horror underpinnings of fairy tales, and neither she nor the directors pull any punches in the moments that need to be scary. The Beast's entrance is deeply intimidating, and the film makes excellent use of shadows and sounds to ramp up the terror through suggestion. Equally scary are the scenes in the West Wing, beginning slowly with Belle's face in the cracked mirror and then letting lose when the Beast discovers her and flies into a blinding rage.

Equally, Beauty and the Beast is an incredibly funny and heart-warming experience. Since the central relationship is so intense, much of the comic relief has to come from the supporting cast, and each character shines in their own way. Cogsworth is a hilarious fall guy, bringing endless merriment from his pomposity and cowardice. Certainly his antics rival those of Archimedes in The Sword in the Stone for pure unmitigated hilarity, and the glossier animation allows more of the physical humour to be fully realised.

Most of the heart-warming moments in the film are brought to life through Alan Menken's score. I've been hard on Jeffrey Katzenberg in the past (and with good reason, regarding The Black Cauldron), but his decision to make the film a musical was the right one. The songs are all stand-outs, combining catchy melodies and clever lyrics without ever sounding like the singers or writers are showing off. The first few notes of the title song are enough to make your heart sing and quiver, while 'Be Our Guest' remains completely irresistible.

Not only is the film tonally perfect, but the script understands the emotional depth and subtleties of the story. Its overarching themes about inner beauty and not judging by appearances are expertly conveyed through the strong character writing and development. Even the most cartoonish figures, like Gaston and Lefou, are written like believable human beings capable of rational decisions. Not only is the film's message a brilliant one for children, it's delivered in a manner that encourages them to think rather than just accept the events that they see.

Beauty and the Beast is the crowning glory of the Disney Renaissance and the company's best work since Sleeping Beauty. The respectful and intelligent treatment of the original story is married to beautiful visuals, fantastic character writing and a soundtrack that remains one of the best in any 1990s film. Even after all these years its power still remains, to wow your senses and above all win your heart.
Super Reviewer
May 20, 2013
Magical and wonderful. Bright and vivid animation. Brilliant music with some of the best lyric writing you'll see in musical entertainment. Highly recommended for children and adults alike.
Super Reviewer
January 19, 2010
"Beauty and the Beast" is one of the films to put Disney on the map. With a tale as old as time, this fairytale is more believable than most of the animations that come from this studio. Having a down-on-her-luck girl being wanted by a man who she despises, she gives up her life to save her father, where she finds herself confronted with a scary beast. The destiny of the film unfolds and will warm everyones heart while watching it unravel. I certainly had the time of my life watching this film! It's a film that will never falter or fail to impress, no matter how many times you watch it. With perfect writing and a story that will be remembered forever, "Beauty and the Beast" is one of the best Disney films out there to date!
michael e.
Super Reviewer
November 26, 2010
This is one of those movies that I don't really need to explain why it is so good because lets face it, we've all seen it and we all know the reasons why its so good. The music is incredibly well composed by Alan Menken, the characters are all colorful and are all very fun, my favorite being Lumiere, the actors are well chosen for their parts and all do fantastic jobs, The story is great, and the animation is just flat out amazing. The only thing I don't like about it is Gaston, and I honestly think he is the most bland of the Disney villains and the most annoying. Other than that I can find no flaws with this film its just a masterpiece of a Disney film and it was well worth the Golden Globe for best picture.
Samuel Riley
Super Reviewer
July 5, 2012
I remember watching this stunning masterpiece when I was a lot younger; believed it was the greatest Disney film ever. However, after revisiting it recently, it didn't have the same feeling. Personally, 'Beauty and the Beast' was better looking back at it rather than watching it again. The only main criticism about this film is that it features one of the most obnoxious villians in Disney history. Besides this, it features lovely visuals and possibly the most recognised songs in any Disney film. Although not my most favoured Disney film, it is one of Disney's finest and is a must watch for all fans.
Super Reviewer
June 24, 2011
This IS Disney's best film. Better than ''The Lion King'', ''Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs'', ''Aladdin'' and every single Pixar film. Storytelling at its finest. Filmmaking at its finest. Art at its finest.
Super Reviewer
January 7, 2012
When I was in pre-school I would recite every line from this film. Finding the old tape in the garage I watched and remembered what I loved about it.
Super Reviewer
July 31, 2007
My all time favorite!
thmtsang
Super Reviewer
July 13, 2007
Love the music and the animation. Classic story about a beast who captures and falls in love a beautiful girl called Belle.
skactopus
Super Reviewer
December 17, 2011
There's Gary Trousdale and there's Kirk Wise. Together they turn Beauty and the Beast into a magical animation.The message behind the film's plot is a strong and positive one; the storytelling delivers at a good pace and there isn't much to be wasted, which is a good thing since the run time is under 90 minutes. The characters are highly amusing, especially the side ones, and the visuals for the settings are nicely done.The multiple musical numbers are catchy and memorable. The opening piece, done with Belle's introduction, is brilliant. This film wouldn't have been the same without them.The voice work is spot on. Paige O'Hara's lovely voice works wonders for Belle, and Robby Benson is able to deliver as the Beast. Jerry Orbach, David Ogden Stiers, and Angela Lansbury are show stealers with their characters.To sum it all up, Beauty and the Beast is one animation not to pass up. "Be our guest."
TheDudeLebowski65
Super Reviewer
November 22, 2011
Beauty and the Beast was not really my favorite Disney film growing up as a kid, however it's not the worst. Far from it, actually. I very much enjoyed this film growing up and thought it had a good plot. But there were parts that did scare me as a kid. The film is lavishly drawn and animated and is really the standout of the film. The voice talents are good as well. But like, I stated, the film wasn't my favorite Disney flick. What I enjoyed about this film was the good comedic bits. Though not great, this film definitely memorable and lots of fun. Beauty and the Beast is a good film that though not the best Disney film is still a film worth watching, and it manages to be a good family film. There are things that could have been better, but for what it is, this film succeeds at being an entertaining film that though not the best animated Disney film, is certainly not the worst. There are plenty of things to enjoy about this film. Overall I recommend this film to anyone looking for a good family film, but at times it has a few scary moments, but it's nothing to get absolutely frightened about. Beauty and the Beast is a good Disney film, far from perfect, but far from worst too. I much preferred The Lion King. An enjoyable film, but nothing ever flawless, there are far better films in Disney's catalogue than Beauty and the Beast, and I think many people would agree.
FilmFanatik
Super Reviewer
January 12, 2007
Although most fans of the story dismiss it (in particular fans of the earlier Cocteau classic), the movie-going public loves and adores Disney's 1991 adapatation of Beauty and the Beast. It's an impeccably well-made piece of animation from the now legendary filmmakers at Disney. It's one of my favorites and the last truly special film in the Disney animated canon. Other films followed but none of them had the imagination, work and just pure genius of the artform built into them the way this one did. This was also one of the last Disney films that was aimed at a wide variety of people, and not just little kids. It's truly timeless and one that I always look forward to seeing.
Super Reviewer
½ August 9, 2011
Disney gets romantic! Ooo la la.
theunknownhobo
Super Reviewer
½ August 25, 2011
One of the best Disney movies of all time, Beauty and the Beast taught little girls like me that you don't have to be a princess or an air head to be the lead! More layers than most Disney movies with a solid moral in the end Beauty and the Beast is funny, colourful, honest and heartbreaking. A truly wonderful and timeless movie.
cosmo313
Super Reviewer
June 9, 2006
At one point, I gave this thing a rating of 3.5. What the hell was I thinking? This is an excellent film. Yeah it's a love stroy, but it's a romantic fairy tale done by Disney, so that means it's gorgeous to look at, drawn well, creative, fun, and filled with tons of heart and imagination.

Plus, it's got a great message and is a nice take on a classic story and lesson. The music numbers are really good (and the score in general is top notch, especially since some of the cues during the West Wing scene sound like "The Aquarum" from Carnival of The Animals by Saint-Saens), and the voice cast is great. Even though I'm a dude, I must admit that I can relate to Belle in terms of being a book nerd who loves to dream.

This is, I think, still the only animated film to be nominated for Best Picture, and not just Best Animated feature, so that's really saying something, especially since it's totally earned and deserving of that honor and distinction.
sergioogarcia
Super Reviewer
July 8, 2011
If you like musicals, this is the reborn of classical musical-animation movies. It's part of Disney's tradition to include songs in their movies, but the Beauty and The Beast beat all of the previous achievements.
murphmann93
Super Reviewer
June 24, 2011
A childhood favourite and a classic!
Super Reviewer
½ September 6, 2010
Disney wasn't the first to make a movie of Beauty and the Beast, although most people only focus on this movie. It is a great animated film, though, and I love it. The songs are really good too.
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