Beauty and the Beast (1991) Review

“Beauty and the Beast’s story is very simple, but it is filled out wonderfully with character interaction and music that will infect your heart.”

Last night I finally got around to watching the original version of Beauty and the Beast, and let me just say: I get it. I fully understand why people have been singing this movie’s praises since before I was born. I completely get why this is my mom’s favourite movie. I understand why people recite the music at every chance they get. I finally get all of it. Beauty and the Beast, for those who don’t know, follows Belle (Paige O’Hara), the daughter of an inventor who lives on the outskirts of town. She is very beautiful but everyone in town thinks she is weird because she reads books. She is being relentlessly pursued by Gaston (Richard White), the town tough-guy who will stop at nothing to make Belle his wife. All of this changes when her father goes missing and is found being held prisoner by a prince who was transformed into a monstrous beast (aptly named “Beast”, played by Robby Benson). Belle trades herself for her father’s freedom and the pair live in Beast’s enchanted castle filled with singing cutlery and barking footstools.

Right off the bat, what surprised me most about Beauty and the Beast was just how much of an asshole Beast was. Usually in a movie like Beauty and the Beast a main character would be made to be relatable or tragic; Beast broke that mold by being a complete cunt. This mother fucker yells at people, breaks shit, and willingly takes women prisoner and then expects them to fall in love with him; let’s just suffice it to say that I never once wondered why a man like that was transformed into an ugly beast. This outrageous attitude is conveyed by Robby Benson’s wonderful voice work wherein he encapsulates the perfect “abusive lover” tone. One thing that was a little weird about Beast voice throughout the film was a noticeable filter placed in very key moments to give the Beast a more animal sound (I think); this wasn’t distracting, but it was instantly noticeable. Another thing that was hard to miss was the fact that Beast’s speaking voice, a very harsh sound, was not at all similar to his singing voice, a very sweet sound. This part again wasn’t annoying, but it was very noticeable (despite Beast not singing much). Luckily these little issues were shadowed by the performances of all of the other characters in Beauty and the Beast. Paige O’Hara did an amazing job as Belle, making her not only princess-like but also capable of standing up for herself, Richard White did an amazing job as Gaston, really selling the fact that he was a narcissistic douche, and all of the furniture in Beast’s castle were also really well voiced. As a matter of fact, all of these characters are what made the movie for me. Beauty and the Beast’s story is very simple, but it is filled out wonderfully with character interaction and music that will infect your heart. Speaking of music, let’s talk about the songs in Beauty and the Beast. Now much like the story, the songs in Beauty and the Beast aren’t the most complex. There are some people singing about how weird Belle is, there is some cutlery singing about serving food, and there is an entire song dedicated to how great of a guy Gaston is. Now don’t think that I’m dismissing the music because there are some really high points, the title song in itself was enough to win me over, but I’m just pointing out that a lot of Beauty and the Beast is reserved for fun, and that’s perfectly fine. I love it when a movie’s sole purpose is to make me have fun, and that’s exactly what it felt like Beauty and the Beast did. The ninety minute runtime flew by as I was enjoying these funny moments and being moved by the emotional ones. That’s another thing about Beauty and the Beast that I respect: despite the “goal” being fun, it was able to transition seamlessly into drama at the drop of a hat. Not only was I laughing along with the characters, but I cared about them.

Really one of the last things to discuss about Beauty and the Beast would be the animation. What I like about the presentation of Beauty and the Beast is the fact that the animation is simple, yet beautiful. The characters that we see are very flat in design, but the backgrounds are these elaborate, almost oil painting-like scenes that just engross you. You might think that these two art styles coming together would look wrong, but it absolutely works. The detail and beauty of the background makes the foreground look nicer, and the simplicity of the foreground makes the background blend seamlessly into the rest of the image. And despite Beauty and the Beast being animated, they really went to the trouble of making the world feel as if the movie was shot with a camera. Things coming in and out of focus, seemingly stagnant objects being thrust out of frame when the camera subtlety zoomed in on a subject; all of these small details helped so much to make the world feel real. If I had to pick one complaint about the animation it would be that the ballroom scene didn’t really fit with the rest of the movie. I’m no expert, but to me it looked like they decided to digitally create the ballroom in a 3D space, and then insert the two characters dancing. This makes sense to me, I understand that being able to record the room would be easier on the animators, but it stood out. Again, this wasn’t bad but it was enough to make me stop and wonder what I was seeing. It’s kind of like seeing a cartoon character interact with the real world, except this wasn’t the real world it was a 1990’s computer-generated one.

Overall I can finally say that I understand what people live Beauty and the Beast so much. The story is simple, but the movie is made great by the wonderful characters and the amazing music. Despite Beauty and the Beast putting a focus on fun, the movie is able to really tug on your heartstrings when it wants to. And to top it all off, all of this is wrapped up in a wonderfully animated package.

I give Beauty and the Beast an A

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