Walt Disney Pictures re-released “Beauty and the Beast” to theaters on New Year’s Day, but not just to any theaters. The 1991 classic, cleaned up, remastered and with a new sequence added, is playing only on IMAX and other large-format screens. Take every possible opportunity to see it.
It’s always been one of my favorites, but seeing it again — and in this large format — I was reminded of several things I’d forgotten.
The first reason you should see it is that it’s simply one of the best films ever made, animated or otherwise. It’s about the power love has to transform people, and the true nature of beauty. Like all the greatest movies, it makes you laugh AND cry. It’s warm, sweet-natured, satiric and funny.
It’s also a marvel of efficient storytelling: It’s full of plot and characters and singing and dancing, yet still is only 90 minutes long. There’s not a moment wasted and not a bit of padding, but the pace is never rushed, either.
Shall we talk about the wonderful, funny characters brought so vividly to life? Or the Oscar-winning score, which is a truly impressive piece of work, full of themes and motifs and every bit as complete as a Hammerstein or Sullivan score? Or the “Be Our Guest” number, which may be one of the greatest showstoppers EVER? Or the deep, simple humanity that runs through the whole piece? Few movies have power to elevate their audiences the way this one does.
The IMAX version enlarges the beauty of the film — the ballroom scene is more spectacular than ever — as well as the flaws. In crowd scenes, particularly, it’s apparent that some people have not been given much character; the large-screen format makes this more obvious.
But never mind that, for Disney has added a six-minute sequence to the film called “Human Again.” This song was written and storyboarded for the original film but never animated; directors Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise felt it didn’t move the story along and they cut it. Subsequently, the song — in which the inhabitants of the castle sing about what they’ll do when the curse is lifted — appeared in the “Beauty and the Beast” stage show, where it was met with enthusiasm.
So the original animation team and vocal talent were gathered to create the song that sat on a shelf for 10 years. The song itself is a lovely, wistful waltz, and it’s accompanied by some amusing character moments with Cogsworth, Lumiere and the much-overlooked Wardrobe.
The sequence also includes a scene of Belle and the Beast reading “Romeo & Juliet” together — an absolutely sublime moment. Everything fits so well into the original film that you’ll wonder how they ever did without it.
It would be hard to overstate how great “Beauty and the Beast” is, but I don’t want to run the risk of doing it. Seeing it again will remind you of all its charms.
A (1 hr., 31 min.; )