Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Directed by Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* * *

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When her inventor father, Maurice, is imprisoned in the castle of the mysterious Beast, where he had taken shelter after losing his way in a dark forest, Belle, a beautiful, bookish young woman, agrees to exchange places with him. Once she has so taken up residence in the Beast's sumptuous home, which is inhabited by a variety of living household objects, her fierce jailor reveals himself to have a heart and a capacity for gentleness, which qualities quickly cause Belle to begin to fall in love with him.

Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise's animated film Beauty and the Beast is a fun but unduly saccharine re-imagining of Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont's marvellous fairy tale.


While movies and literature are different artistic media, and a work adapted from one to the other should be judged by its own merits, a comparison of the source material to the adaptation can still be helpful in revealing the virtues or faults of either of these.


I am sad to say that a comparison of Leprince de Beaumont's fairy tale with the Disney movie does little to emphasize the quality of the latter. The directors have changed the story in whatever way they apparently thought would make it cuter and more contrived. Belle's father has thus been transformed from a merchant to an eccentric inventor. Rather than breaking a taboo at the Beast's castle and thereby angering him, Maurice annoys the creature merely by his presence, and, instead of that man subsequently making an agreement to give to the Beast whatever thing first greets him upon his return home, which in the fairy tale he believes will be his dog but which turns out to be Beauty, Belle goes to the castle herself in order to free her father. The list of these painful alterations goes on and on.


In addition to such changes, the narrative has been burdened with innumerable adorable elements. The Beast's palace has been filled with a plethora of quaint and quirky servants, including a suave French candlestick, a doting, motherly teapot, and her cute son, a childlike teacup named Chip. I cannot begin to express how grating all of these individuals are. I suppose that some children and many adults, specifically those who, thinking children are utterly adorable, believe that everything to which such persons are to be exposed should be equally adorable, will enjoy all this treacle. I did not.


In spite of its undue cuteness, Beauty and the Beast is often visually appealing. Belle herself is nicely realized and genuinely attractive. The backdrops are lovingly and carefully delineated, and many of the designs of the supporting characters are well done, either because they are humorous, sexy, or just odd.


Besides its pleasant images, the movie has other virtues as well. The narrative, though not nearly as engaging as is the original, is still interesting, and many of its songs, of which there are several, are entertaining. Some of these are, in fact, alive with a real sense of fun.


While I was not greatly impressed with Beauty and the Beast, I have to say that I did enjoy watching the film. It may not have any great artistic worth, but it is worth seeing.

Review by Keith Allen

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