Beauty and the Beast (G)
AFI Catalog; Disney Movies; Disney Wiki; IMDb; Rotten Tomatoes; TV Tropes; Wikipedia
streaming sites: Amazon; Disney+; Google Play; iTunes; Movies Anywhere; Vudu; YouTube
So I was trying to decide what DVD to watch tonight (April 16, 2012), and then I thought of a line I had heard earlier on tonight's episode of How I Met Your Mother, which mentioned "the teacup from Beauty and the Beast." I won't explain the context (which is both irrelevant to this review and inappropriate for the primary target age group of this film), but it was enough to make up my mind for me. Anyway, this movie came out in 1991. I'm not sure when I first saw it (probably on VHS), but I suppose it must've been sometime in the 90s. It's part of the whole Disney Renaissance era of animated films, and of course it's freaking awesome. Beautiful story, beautiful animation, beautiful songs, and of course, Beauty herself (aka Belle, which is French for "beautiful"... and she is certainly aptly named). Of course, I adore the movie. Oh, I should mention that the DVD has three versions of the movie, including the theatrical version (which must be the one I've seen before, on video), but tonight I'm watching the extended version, which I think just has one added musical number, which had been cut from the original.
Of course it's based on a very old story, but I don't even remember now if I'd ever heard any version of it before this one. I was probably at least aware of it, but at this point it's hard to imagine anyone thinking of the title without this movie immediately coming to mind. As I started watching it tonight, I immediately loved it, and I couldn't help musing that it's kind of unfair of me to love it at the very beginning, before the opening song even starts. It's just a foreknowledge of the awesomeness that awaits, which in a way kind of makes me sad. No, that's not right... I can't help being happy, but it's a bit... you know, you can only have one first time, for any given thing in life. So the very fact that I already know I'm going to love it before anything lovable happens is kind of like a spoiler, in and of itself. But then, the first song soon starts, and while it's hardly the most memorable song in the movie, it's certainly enjoyable. We learn about Belle, who lives in a provincial French village (I'm not sure of the time period, but I'm guessing late Middle Ages or early Renaissance). ...Wait, um, I've paused the movie to write this bit, and it suddenly occurs to me that I already forgot something that came first. A narrator told a story about a spoiled prince who was cursed by an enchantress, turned into a beast after he turned her away when she sought shelter from a storm. She gave him a rose that would bloom until his 21st year, and the curse could only be lifted if he learned to love someone, and she him, before the last petal fell from the rose. I thought it a bit odd, because he looked full-grown in the opening scene, but I suppose he must have been in his teens. I'm not sure how many years pass before the next scene, where we meet Belle, but it couldn't have been too many. (I should also say that Belle looks full-grown to me, but is also probably in her teens.) Anyway, I adore her, not just because she's beautiful, but mainly because she loves to read. Though that's the thing that makes everyone else in the village (except for the bookseller, of course) think she's strange. And I couldn't help digging the fact that, as she starts re-reading her favorite book (the description of which sounds like her own story, though she couldn't possibly know that yet), it's clear that she loves it even though she knows everything that's going to happen. So it plays into the whole thing I was talking about, watching this movie after having already seen it.
Well, it's sort of an amalgam song, which introduces us not only to Belle, but also Gaston, a strong, handsome, and very vain young man whom everyone in town loves (especially the girls). He wants to marry Belle, just because she's the most beautiful girl in town, though he clearly disdains her personality. And she clearly has no interest in him. (The other girls don't understand that, and it's kind of hard to understand why Gaston is so set on Belle, considering the other girls are reasonably hot, themselves, and all adore him, unlike Belle.) Anyway, after that song, we meet Belle's father, an inventor named Maurice. After perfecting his new invention, he heads off to a fair to present his invention, but gets lost. He ends up seeking shelter in the castle of the prince who is now a beast. He meets some of the prince's servants, who have been turned into household objects, including a candelabra named Lumiere, a clock named Cogsworth, a footstool that clearly used to be a dog, a teapot named Mrs. Potts (voiced by Angela Lansbury), and her son, Chip (a teacup). The master of the castle, however, is not at all pleased to find a stranger in his home, and locks him away. When Maurice's horse, Phillipe, returns home without him, Belle takes him to look for her father. She finds the castle, and offers to stay in her father's place, if the beast releases him. He agrees, if she promises to stay forever (which of course her father doesn't want). But she agrees. (Lumiere, meanwhile, believes she is the girl who will break the curse they're all under.)
Maurice returns to the village, and begs for everyone's help to rescue Belle. While most of them think Maurice is just being his crazy self, Gaston forms a plan to force Belle to marry him. Meanwhile, the beast tries to get Belle to like him, but she shows absolutely no interest in getting to know him, at first. So, he gives up. But his servants aren't done trying. I should say that the head servant is Cogsworth, but none of the others show him any respect, and the main servant actually seems to be Lumiere. And in one of the movie's more memorable songs, there's a line that suggests the curse has gone on for ten years... which according to my math would mean the master had been just shy of eleven years old at the time the curse started, which is something I absolutely cannot believe. But whatever. Let's just ignore that, shall we? (And anyway, the opening scene wasn't in the style of the rest of the movie; it was more like stained glass windows, so... I suppose I could misjudge age.) By the way, I'm pausing periodically throughout this viewing to add to my review. I reckon I'd enjoy it more if I just watched it straight through, but... I have obligations, dammit! Self-imposed obligations, but still. Ahem. I've been meaning to say the movie's also got a lot of humor. I'd normally say that at the end, but I already said some things earlier that I'd normally say at the end, so whatever. Um... and just at the moment, I want to mention that in some musical numbers it becomes apparent there's pretty much nothing in the castle that isn't alive... which strikes me as odd both because there's no way anyone had that many servants, and because it seems to suggest that the prince didn't already have all these things for real before the curse, which is absolutely absurd. Seriously, what did they do with all the dishes and candles and such that they must have had before the servants got turned into those things? Also at this random point, I should mention that Gaston has a flunky named Lefou, whom he treats badly, but Lefou continues to treat Gaston like he's great.
Anyway... there is a certain degree of the kind of thing where... I tend to find romantic stories like this somewhat... unbelievable... in that, the characters may not really be suited to one another, but we just have to accept that they are, for the purposes of the story. The beast does have some reason to develop feelings for Belle, even if I feel like it's still a bit too much about him... I mean, she takes pity on him after he helps her in a certain situation. And that leads him to start behaving in a less beastly way... including sharing his vast library with her (Lumiere's idea). So, I dunno how much either one genuinely cares for the other; each is really just appealing to... meh, I'm sick of over-analyzing. I apologize. Let's just accept that for a fairy tale, it's romantic. (And it's not like we see every moment of the time they spend together, anyway.) And eventually Mrs. Potts sings the most memorable and romantic song from the movie. But there's the whole issue of whether the servants truly care about the romance, or just want to make it happen to break the spell so they can become human again, which is accentuated by the restored song I mentioned before, which is quite good, and certainly I don't blame them... but there I go again, over-analyzing. Sorry.
Eventually, the beast allows Belle to leave, to save her apparently sick father. And Gaston's plan approaches fruition, but Belle spoils it, so he apparently forgets all about his desire to win her, and just wants to kill the beast. Of course he fails, and... man, I've said too much already. But obviously Belle and the beast are going to end up together, and the spell will be broken. That's not a spoiler, that's just common sense. But it is nice to see the beast and all his servants returned to normal. (Lumiere was less attractive than I expected, but his feather duster girlfriend was pretty hot. Cogsworth and Mrs. Potts were both appropriately similar in human form to their object forms; and btw, how likely is it everyone's names would be so appropriate to their object forms?) Though I do find it odd that Chip is still a little kid... he looks less than ten years old, but if the beast aged during the curse, why didn't he? And where the heck is his father, anyway? And are all the teacups really Mrs. Potts' children? (But none of them matter, so who cares?) Oh, and btw, I feel the need to mention something that is clearly the case in at least 70% of fairy tales: tears are magic. And I want to say, I liked this movie less than I remembered, but... if I watch it again without always pausing to work on my review or constantly over-analyzing, I'll probably like it more, and rate it higher. So please don't take the current rating as final. But honestly, before the curse the prince was a lot like Gaston, right? How likely is it he'd change so much? And if Gaston was cursed in the same way, would he end up becoming a nicer person? Sorry, I really need to think less. (But how would thinking less get Belle to love me? I mean... um, never mind.) And if this guy was a prince, how could he just completely drop off the radar? Are his parents not king and queen? How come we never hear anything about them? Why does he just live alone (with his servants)? Why does no one in the kingdom wonder what became of the prince? How can no one know where his castle is? Etc. Wait, I was gonna stop these questions, wasn't I? Sorry.... It really is an awesome film.
There are a couple of direct-to-video midquels: The Enchanted Christmas, and "Belle's Magical World," the latter of which I don't expect to ever see. And in 2017, there was a live-action remake. In 2022, there was a 30th anniversary special (despite it being the 31st anniversary).