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"Beauty and the Beast" comes alive in glorious 3-D

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Reel Mama: "Beauty and the Beast" comes alive in glorious 3-D

Monday, January 16, 2012

"Beauty and the Beast" comes alive in glorious 3-D

Perhaps you recall when Beauty and the Beast was originally released in 1991.  At the time, the film was praised for its stunning animation, along with its moving story and catchy songs, which elevated it far above the run-of-the-mill kid’s film.
At the time no “Best Animated Picture” category existed at the Oscars, and so the fact that it was up until that time the only animated film ever nominated for “Best Picture” is a testament to its excellence. After 20 years, the film deserves another look, and Disney has given it just that with a marvelous release in 3-D. 

Just as Belle observes that “everything is alive” in the enchanted castle, so the film comes to life in this new rendition, and it deserves to be seen on the big screen.  The story is a sweeping depiction of the classic fairy tale.  A young provincial French girl, Belle, dreams of adventure in “the great wide somewhere.”  Her father, a kooky inventor, loads his latest creation onto his cart to show it off at the inventors' fair, but on the way gets lost in the dark woods.  He comes upon the castle, where lives a hideous beast, a handsome prince under a dark spell.  The beast must find true love and be loved in return for the spell to be broken.  The beast, furious when he learns that Belle’s father has intruded, takes him prisoner in the castle.  Belle searches for her father and discovers him there.  She meets the beast, who agrees to release her father if Belle will stay.  But how can the beast convince Belle to love him?
The song “Belle,” sung by the heroine and the townspeople, bursts off the screen in 3-D during the animated crowd scenes.  The film’s remarkable details are much more striking in this version, whether it’s the looming trees of the haunted woods surrounding the castle, or the impressive reveal of the beast’s frightful appearance to Belle.
The humorous touches of the castle’s talking nicknacks and furniture steal the show. Lumière, the oh-so-French Maurice Chevalier-inspired candelabra, singing “Be Our Guest” against a backdrop of spinning china plates and spoons diving into a punchbowl, Esther Williams-style, makes the 3-D version well worth the price of admission, even if you’ve seen it before.  The boorish Gaston, who fails in his attempts to woo Belle, is also hilarious.
The film obviously cast a spell over the audience of children and their mothers who filled the theater during the screening my daughter and I attended, and the songs especially delighted them.  Perhaps your kids have seen the film on video numerous times.  This 3-D film will re-introduce the magic to them, and will make them feel as if they are seeing it for the first time.  

One of the pleasant surprises to me upon revisiting this film was the character of Belle.  As a heroine, she is a lover of books and a non-conformist in the town.  She clearly has a mind of her own, takes the initiative to rescue her father, and shows courage in the face of danger.  She doesn’t fall for the handsome Gaston and instead is capable of not only recognizing but bringing out the inner beauty of the beast.  The Disney princess franchise has its detractors, but it’s well worth examining the films themselves before passing judgement on the princesses as brainless bimbos, because Belle exhibits qualities that are quite admirable.  When the beast shows Belle his library and gives her all the books, her fondest dream has come true.  Belle is quite intent on pursuing higher learning.  
Check out Beauty and the Beast on 3-D this week.  
Reel Mama’s rating:  Appropriate for all ages.  There is a scene involving a ferocious wolf that may be scary for under four, as well as the beast’s temperamental outbursts in the beginning.  The final showdown between the beast and Gaston may be too intense for the youngest viewers.  
Overall, children and adults alike will delight in this film.


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