Beauty and the Beast – IMDb 248/250
Number 248 in the IMDb top 250, the Disney classic Beauty and the Beast is the first animated film on this list; a film which I somehow never saw as a kid and one that is based on a French fairy tale of the same name.
Part of the Disney renaissance era of the late 80s and 90s, Beauty and the Beast tells the story of Beast, a prince of an incredible castle who is placed under a curse and turned into a hideous creature by an enchantress, for his lack of compassion and love. The titular character needs to find love and be loved back before the last petal on a magical rose falls, or he will forever remain in his beastly form.
Along comes the beautiful and enigmatic Belle who, when her father is captured by the Beast, offers herself in exchange. Shortly afterwards, her influence begins to show Beast how to be kind, gentle, and of course how to love.
Aside from the overtones of bestiality and Stockholm Syndrome, this tale of love between the Beast and Belle is a rather charming tale, composed in typical Disney fashion. Elaborate musical numbers, swift character development and the archetypal nefarious villain (in this case the brutish, arrogant Gaston) who wants to marry Belle himself.
I believe the main issue I had with this film stems from the fact that I didn’t see the film as a child and therefore, have no feelings of nostalgia attached. Films like The Lion King and Aladdin I can now watch as an adult and still feel the same sense of wonder, because I loved them so much as a kid. However when I watched this film, I view it as a cynical adult, annoyed by the formulaic Disney patterns.
I just found myself struggling to invest in the story and failed to be drawn into the magical world as I am by other Disney or modern animated films. Having watched recent animation movies like Shrek, Despicable Me and Wall-E, their brilliant use of comedy and wonder keep adults entertained in a way that classic Disney doesn’t. I felt like Beauty and the Beast only had one target audience; and as a grumpy 22 year old, I wasn’t it.
Though that doesn’t mean there was nothing about the film I couldn’t enjoy or appreciate.
The servants who are turned into various household items because of the curse (this enchantress was a truly horrible person: I mean, why were the servants punished – what did they do!), are the real stars of the show, especially compared to the rather bland Belle and the immediately forgettable villain Gaston, who pales in comparison to the likes of Maleficent, Scar and Jafar.
Lumiere the candlestick, Cogsworth the clock and Mrs. Potts the teapot (she was English, obviously), are fantastic and wonderfully brought to life by the animation team, with the voice talents of Jerry Orbach and Angela Lansbury really standing out.
The musical numbers are fun and memorable with Be Our Guest a fantastic little song that deserves especial praise; though perhaps this is because of See My Vest from The Simpsons. I also really enjoyed Human Again, which only features on the special edition version, and of course the titular song, all of which are beautifully performed by the entire cast.
Furthermore, the story moves along at a nice pace,, making it the perfect film for children who need to be distracted for an hour and a half.
Overall I can see why the film is culturally significant and, perhaps if I had watched it as a child, I’d have love and a powerful affinity for Beauty and the Beast; but watching it now, I can’t help but see it as a typical Disney film. To be fair this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as like most Disney films, there is something intrinsically enjoyable that even the most stone-hearted adults can enjoy; in this case French candlesticks and talking teapots!
My Rating: 5/10