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BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

SYNOPSIS:
Poor but beautiful Belle (voice of Paige O'Hara) lives with her inventor father Maurice (Rex Everhart) in a small provincial French town. Belle is considered eccentric by most of the townsfolk, since she's more interested in reading books than in the attentions of her would-be suitor, the handsome but conceited Gaston (Richard White). While travelling through the woods one night, Maurice is taken prisoner in the castle of the mysterious Beast (Robby Benson) who is secretly under a spell that will only be broken when a woman falls in love with him. When Belle travels to the castle in search of her father, the Beast agrees to release Maurice only if Belle will become his prisoner forever.


Review by Jake Wilson:
This upgraded version of the 1991 Disney cartoon is the first 'real' feature film I've seen at an IMAX cinema (as opposed to computer-animated shorts and nature documentaries). Some aspects of the film are enhanced by the new format - notably the constant play with scale, as imposing castle corridors loom behind shrunken magical ornaments. Yet it's the small-scale, comic aspects of the film that generally work best for me; Disney and IMAX seem to bring out the worst in each other when it comes to blandly 'mythic' storytelling and tacky grandeur. Inflated to the max, the images drip with religiose pretension, mimicking stained-glass windows or impressionist paintings: it's academic Pop Art, overblown but zestless, a cartoon cathedral with all the spiritual feeling of a Little Golden Book. If Beauty And The Beast remains one of the better recent Disney features, it's mainly due to the intriguing ambiguity of the original fairy-tale (an inspiration for many storytellers in Hollywood and beyond). From one angle it's a fable about the redeeming power of love; from another, a perverse fantasy about a woman who falls for her brutish jailer. Geared to the core audience of pre-teen girls, Linda Woolverton's script is thoroughly upbeat, professional and knowing, steering clear of the gothic aspects of the story while striving to fulfil as many audience fantasies as possible. Belle is a feisty independent thinker, but also a dreamer who longs for a handsome prince; similarly, the Beast is both barbaric and softhearted, fearsome and vulnerable. Despite the obligatory touches of political correctness, the film is at pains to let us know that at heart it's an archetypal romance, a 'tale as old as time.' As in every IMAX movie I've seen to date, the result is a kind of monumental kitsch, converting the larger-than-life screen into a giant billboard promoting itself.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

SOUNDTRACK REVIEW

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (G)
(US)

VOICES: Paige O'Hara, Robby Benson, Richard White, Jerry Orbach, Angela Lansbury, Rex Everhart

PRODUCER: Don Hahn

DIRECTOR: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise

SCRIPT: Linda Woolverton, Roger Allers (story)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Nicola Pecorini

EDITOR: John Carnochan

MUSIC: Alan Menken

RUNNING TIME: 84 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: BVI/IMAX

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Melbourne: January 1, 2002; Sydney: August 31, 2002







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