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Rob Reviews "Beauty And The Beast"


When Disney entered its “new age” of animation in 1989 with “The Little Mermaid,” it took the animated world back by storm. Their follow-up came two years later with their telling of the classic story “Beauty and the Beast”. I was in my first semester of college when it released around Thanksgiving and have very specific and wonderful memories of my first viewing, and I wasn’t alone as it was the first full-length animated feature to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. As technology has advanced over the last two and a half decades, Disney is now taking their films from different animated eras and making live action versions of them, and the latest is upon us from “Chicago” and “Dreamgirls” director Bill Condon.

Do we really need to recap the storyline here? OK, fine..

Belle (Emma Watson) is a young woman living in a small village in France. Determined to break the cycle of women where she lives with her father, Maurice (Kevin Kline), she spends her time reading and just being a joy to everyone around her, except for the pompous Gaston (Luke Evans), who wants to marry her for his own ego. Meanwhile, Maurice gets lost in a snowstorm on his way to the market and ends up the captive of a Beast (“Legion” and “Downton Abbey” star Dan Stevens) in his castle. The Beast himself is actually a prince who, along with his staff, live under a curse that cannot be broken until he professes his true love to a woman that will in turn do the same. When Belle comes to rescue her father, she exchanges her captivity for his and with the help from some friends gets to know the Beast for who he is while learning a bit about herself while Gaston and his sidekick, LeFou (Josh Gad), plot their own plans for her.

Going into this screening (which we were fortunate enough to see in IMAX 3-D), I was very guarded. Given my love and specific memories of the first Disney version paired with the fact that thirty extra minutes were added to this version, this film was already at a disadvantage. However, I am happy to report that it truly broke through and melted my heart. With some shot-for-shot moments (seen as early as the original teaser trailer) to the new songs and footage added by original songwriter Alan Menken, this is done really well. The extra half-hour did not even feel like it, enhanced by absolutely amazing visuals and special effects to go along with a cast that also features Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Audra McDonald, Stanley Tucci, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw.

For those of you out there that may read into the Internet more than you may need to and heard certain stories about some of the content and how it could be seen by your families, you may want to see it on your own first and make a judgment call on your own. I recently had this conversation with a co-worker and being a guy who does not have children, I could see this from both sides. For the older elementary crowd, there IS a possibility of questions, but the material itself is fairly subtle and could go right past them from my point of view. “Beauty and the Beast” is still a wonderful film that I enjoyed a lot more than I expected to and could be seen as a new classic.

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