Movie Review: Beauty and the Beast in 3D

Beauty and the Beast has been, for maybe about a year, Prima’s favorite movie.  So when I Beauty and the Beastlearned that it was being re-released in theaters, in 3D no less, I knew that I had to take here to see it. And, I’ll admit to you, I kind of wanted to see it on the big screen myself.

And I wasn’t disappointed. The 3D effects weren’t intrusive at all, and actually added another dimension (pun unavoidable) to the movie. I guess that’s the point, isn’t it?

As far as the movie itself, I’ve finally got the chance to share my thought on it with another adult besides Mrs. Viva, so here goes.

Some cool previews–the Julia Roberts version of Snow White, Mirror Mirror, looks like it has some promise. 3D version of The Phantom Menace looked great, but the shot of Jar-Jar Binks reminded me that the script or acting probably haven’t been technologically advanced, so why bother with it?

Then came the Disney log, and I told Prima, “Here it comes.” But before the movie we had a short cartoon, which seems to be a sequel to Tangled. That would have been awesome if I’d have seen Tangled, but as it was it was kind of neat, even though I got nervous thinking I’d brought us to the wrong theater. I don’t think I could have lived that down.

After the short, the movie itself started, and even the opening stained-glass-looking expository story looked incredible on the big screen. We were both immediately entranced.

Then the first number, “Belle,” started. Incredible. Like I said before, the 3D was pretty minimal–mostly having things pop out from the background, but really neat. Have I mentioned that this is the first 3D movie that either of us has seen? I’m not a Luddite or anything, but I haven’t had the chance to see many movies in the past few years.

If you haven’t seen it, it’s basically Belle walking around her quiet village (which is actually pretty bustling), having guys stare at her, and being oblivious. I will say that the fact that she goes to a bookstore and treats it like a library probably put a whole generation of potential book-buyers off of actually buying books in a bookstore. It was Beauty, not Amazon, that really killed Borders. Or not.

Also kind of funny how there’s an awful lot of leering in “Belle,” both at the title character and at the busty redhead, for a kids’ cartoon. I haven’t been asked for an explanation yet, which is probably a good thing.

Then we get to meet Gaston, the wonderfully egotistical comic baritone villain of the movie.  You can never have too many of those in my book, and Gaston is a great one. It’s impossible not to listen to lines like “Here in town there’s only she/Who is beautiful…as me!” and not laugh.

We also meet Lefou, Gaston’s dwarfish, bumbling sidekick. Lefou comes in for a lot of abuse from everyone during the movie, particularly Gaston, which makes you wonder: What does he get out of his relationship with Gaston? Clearly it’s something, and I think it’s most clear in the song “Gaston,” where Lefou gets to pick Gaston up. You get the feeling that he lives vicariously through Gaston, which I guess works for him.

Once the song is over, we meet Belle’s dad, Maurice, who suffers from Disney Ancient Parent Syndrome. I haven’t been watching Disney movies for very long, but I’ve noticed that most of the main characters are in their late teens/early twenties, and all of their parents look like they’re in the late sixties/early seventies: plump, white-haired, and often stooped over. The worst offender I’ve seen yet is Mrs. Potts/Chip. She’s a little grandmotherly type, and he–her son–looks to be about eight. Is this a subtle commentary from the Disney animators about how exhausting parenthood can be?

Then the whole story unfolds: Maurice goes to the fair, gets lost, and ends up with the Beast. We get to meet the supporting characters who, in their enchanted form, are a bunch of household items.

Which leads me to a big problem with the movie. The Beast moans and complains about being a hideous beast, but he actually doesn’t have it too bad–he can kick some serious ass when he has to, and at least he’s got a real body. Imagine being stuck in the shape of a candlestick for ten years. Seriously, can you imagine the horror? Though Lumiere seems to be taking it all in stride, even trying to get it on with the feather duster while he’s supposed to be watching Belle’s room.

There’s a very interesting parallel here between the Beast, who is mean and crude but actually nice once you get past the Man Rage, and Gaston, who is mean and crude but not that nice once you get to know him. Both of them want Belle to marry them. The Beast lets Belle go because he just wants her to be happy. Gaston pays the asylum owner to lock Maurice up until Belle agrees to marry him. Which actually seems like a pretty good way not to get her to marry him, but she did agree to live with the Beast forever to let her father go free, so who knows.

I’ve got to say that the townspeople, who seem quaintly small-town and rustic at the beginning, do not come off well at all here. First, they’re all complicit in Gaston forcing Belle to marry him. Second, they run off and attack the castle, then just go home like nothing happened. And they lock up Belle and her Dad, who have been model citizens. Not exactly good neighbors, are they?

I had to chuckle at Gaston and Lefou, first telling everyone that the Beast didn’t exist, which meant that Maurice was crazy then, once the existence of the Beast was proven thanks to his magic mirror (which looks a lot like an iPad these days), they immediately fli-flop and demand a retaliatory raid against the Castle. They’d make great politicians: “I voted against storming the castle before I voted for it.”

Then they storm the castle, and there’s a moderately disturbing shot of Lefou plucking the flowers from the feather duster, which seems to imply some sort of sexual violence. He’s then stabbed in the buttocks by Cogsworth, which…kind of says it all. Also some nonconsensual cross-dressing, but that’s all in good fun.

Finally, the depressed Beast is attacked by Gaston. He only defends himself after Belle shows up, and when he finally starts fighting totally pwns Gaston. Gaston shows himself to be the quintessential bully–he’s an absolutely glorious coward when the tables are against him–and totally treacherous, as he stabs the Beast in the back. Well, the side, the iconography of which strikes me a at least somewhat Christ-like…but we haven’t seen anything yet.

The Beast is comforted by Belle, then dies. The last petal falls off his rose, then sparkly rain starts falling, and he regenerates…into a handsome prince. Before he can say, “Change, my dear, and it seems not a moment too soon,” we segue into their marriage, and everyone lives happily ever after.

Good stuff.

So this is a fun movie for parents to watch–if you get a chance to see it in the theater in 3D, make it happen.

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