Saturday, January 14, 2012

Review - Beauty and the Beast 3D

Aiming to take a load off my awards-addled mind – something I recommend everyone do this time of year – I spent the afternoon taking in the 3D resurrection of an old favourite. Springboarding from the surprisingly profitable release of The Lion King last fall, Disney is giving their timeless musical romance Beauty and the Beast the same treatment in hopes of drawing in audiences over less-than-compelling January fare.
It didn't take much to get my butt in a seat. The film is, in my opinion, a high watermark for Walt Disney Animation. While The Little Mermaid is justly adored and credited with being the game-changer for the struggling studio in 1989, Beauty and the Beast must be acknowledged as the film that refined the new formula to the point of near perfection, approaching the love story with more emotional maturity and the musical format with more sophistication than any of its many predecessors in the Disney canon. It won unanimous critical praise and a cool Best Picture nomination as reward. That it continues to charm new generations of movie lovers to this day is merely a verification of the "instant classic" status that was bestowed upon it in 1991.

The 3D itself, I could've done without. While it is used strikingly at moments (namely the signature ballroom scene, the hauntingly claustrophobic West Wing sequence, and the picturesque hilltop reprise of "Belle"), most of the time it's little more than a distraction. The only memorable application of the technology came during the end credits, which were superimposed over top of lovely penciled character sketches which had previously been gathering dust in the animators' vault. At its worst, the 3D awkwardly isolates the characters' physical features or downgrades the painterly quality of the original artwork to quaint pop-up book images.
But such quibbles come only as an afterthought. No amount of 3D, however implemented, can turn a good movie bad. Besides, Beauty and the Beast is a film that demands to be heard in a theatre, more so than seen (not to undersell the beauty of the animation, which has aged very well in the 20 years since its debut). Alan Menken and Howard Ashman's indelible song score sounds extra fabulous in glorious surround sound, which articulates the elaborate orchestrations and nimble lyrics with a perfect balance of volume and clarity. Not to be outdone are the terrifically mixed roars and growls of the Beast, which don't sound nearly so imposing on home video as they do in the cinema.

The power of nostalgia can't be underestimated. Seeing this childhood staple on the big screen for the first time in two decades should indeed prove a special experience for longtime fans, as it did for me. Newcomers are no doubt in for a treat. Perhaps the most gratifying highlight of the show was hearing the robust applause from a relatively sparse matinee audience that sounded upon the film's conclusion. I can only echo the sentiment: "Love it."

**** out of ****

4 comments:

  1. Definitely Top 3 of 90's animation, and also I find it funny that while it was justly nominated for Best Picture, it lost to the equally deserving, but polar opposite Silence of the Lambs...

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  2. What would you say is your all-time favourite Disney Animated film?

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  3. Good choice. Mine would be "The Lion King"

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