Beauty and the Beast Reviews
I know most movie fans see Gaston as the antagonist, but in my mind, he is actually the secondary villain, dwarfed by The Beast himself-an admittedly selfish man, with a short and borderline abusive temper. Disney tackles some relentlessly mature subjects and getting a self-effacing library nerd together with a narcissistic, anthromorphic bully, to the happy tune of a singing, dancing teapot, is no easy creative feat. Beauty and the Beast also struck me as a very dark tale, regardless of its tacked on happy ending. Belle falls for The Beast only after his demise, brought on by his one act of unselfishness, but inevitably loses him along the way. Oh sure, she got the human prince in a magical resurrection but the Beast that she loved, the man who truly made her suppressed passions burn, was forever lost. And the funniest thing is, you can literally see disappointment all over her face as she stares at the viewer in subdued, kid-friendly, buyer's remorse.
The battle of the furniture versus the villagers is a priceless moment of hilarity, a breath a fresh air we all need before entering the darker, dramatic, love-torn battle of Gastón versus Beast.
Within the first ten minutes, I was worried that the film didn't warrant my fond memories. The opening song is repetitive and goofy, and Belle's voice (Paige O'Hara) is somewhat more grading, whiny, and shrill than I recall. The voice of Gaston (Richard White) is also a disappointment; unbelievable and over-played in its cockiness, but the guy can break a leather belt with only his neck muscles, I would never say it to his face.
As the film quickly carried on, I was reminded why this one is so widely considered a fan-favorite and a modern classic. The Disney animators create a rich and vibrant world, hand-drawn and vast in its scope. The stained glass prologue brightly sets up the story, transitioning beautifully into the skillful hand-drawn animation that Disney was known for in these days, highlighted by Beast's castle which feels enormous, dark, hollow, and genuinely overwhelming. This film also features some of the earliest integrations of computer animation with hand-drawn images, the chandelier during the musical number "Be Our Guest" really pops.
The music, excepting the opening melody, gives this movie its staying power with good reason. Everyone knows the title track, and Gaston's song was a pleasant surprise that I had nearly forgotten. In between the songs though, Lumiere (Jerry Orbach) and Cogsworth (David Ogden Stiers) spawn some laughs with expert voice-acting, and Maurice (Rex Everhart) genuinely sparks a mix of emotions no matter your age. Wholly absent from my recollection and shocking in his introduction was the character Monsieur D'Arque (Tony Jay), the creepy warden of the asylum. Most importantly, Beast is still professedly terrifying. Robby Benson's growling delivery of lines such as "IT'S FORBIDDEN" induces chills to this day; watch out.
Any bibliophile deserves a look at Beast's library, one of the most iconic in all of fiction. All avid readers dream a scenario where they too are gifted such an exquisite, prose-filled space. Fans of Disney animation will also catch a humorous nod to The Little Mermaid in the final act. As a child, the only lesson I remember learning was not to judge a book by its cover, but I noticed a few other lessons in my old age. Example: when someone is physically repulsive, but has a quality or two that you really desire (such as a castle and a waiting staff), don't worry, you can always transform them into a handsome, refined prince. Maybe we'll just hope the kids don't carry these less obvious lessons with them.
Do yourself a favor and give this one an updated viewing. It holds up. And remember, when you don't know which direction to go, always listen to the horse.
Favorite Line: "Where have you taken us Philippe!?"
Rating: 4 out of 5
Beauty and the Beast is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital release.