movie film review | chris tookey

Beauty And The Beast

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  Beauty And The Beast Review
Tookey's Rating
10 /10
Average Rating
9.00 /10
Voices: Paige O%27Hara, Robby Benson, Jerry Orbach
Full Cast >

Directed by: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
Written by: Linda Woolverton , music & lyrics by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman .

Released: 1991
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 85

Nice girl is kept prisoner by apparently nasty beast.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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What is the greatest cartoon of all time? For innovation, nothing will ever beat Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, a revelation on release in 1937. But Disney’s most perfectly achieved combination of animation, story-telling and song must surely be this loving tribute to the old fairytale.

I do have a few quibbles. If our heroine is so intellectually superior to the local villagers, how come she’s reading only fairytales when she’s grown up?

Isn’t our leading man more attractive as the reformed Beast than he is when transformed into ultra-conventional beefcake?

And wasn’t it a bit tough on the Beast’s servants that they all got cursed and transformed when their employer was punished for his arrogance? That aspect of the set-up is never explained.

But if you were ever baffled as to why the enjoyable but flawed Aladdin became a colossal hit in 1992/3, look no further than this, its immediate predecessor. If any film deserved five stars, it’s this.

Twenty-one years on from the original release, the skilful but largely unnecessary addition of 3D adds a tiny amount to the sense of this being a pop-up storybook come to life, but the great pleasure is to see it again on a big screen.

There’s plenty to experience that you may not have appreciated before - especially the cleverly foreshadowing underscore and witty lyrics. Howard Ashman, who wrote those words, died of Aids at the age of 40 before he could see the finished film, but it remains his most enduring legacy.

I’d certainly forgotten how hilariously servile the villainous Gaston’s friend Philippe is, fawning over his meat-headed mate’s muscular masculinity. These sequences seemed harmlessly camp in 1991, but take on a more subversive tone now - deliciously satirical on the narcissistic cult of the body beautiful, and the boorish, ego-driven, win-at-all-costs ethos repellently fashionable in our age of The Apprentice.

And the conflict between bookish, open-minded civilization and thuggish barbarism remains potent. The opening sequence looks dated now because it harks back to a time when even a small, provincial village might have a library.

But of course it wouldn’t do to read too much into a film that always set out to be entertainment, and triumphantly achieved that aim.

No matter how many times you see it, the Be Our Guest production number has the power to bring tears to the eyes by virtue of its quality, as does the title song, exquisitely sung by Angela Lansbury.

On every level, and for every age group, this movie’s a masterpiece.

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