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'Beauty and the Beast' Offers New Spin on Old Magic

Beautiful and magical, the movie may wow kids but not adults

Published on: March 18, 2017

'Beauty and the Beast' promo

As a child of the ‘90s, I cringed when I heard they were remaking Beauty and the Beast. If it ain’t broke, right? 

I thawed at the trailer. There was the enchanted rose, the yellow dress, the grand library. And Hermione played Belle! I like Hermione. I trust Hermione.

My noon Saturday showing was sold out. So was the 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Clearly, this film has struck a chord. It’s no surprise. Children of the ‘90s are the ones having the children of the ‘10s (82 percent of U.S. births in the U.S. were to Millennial women, those born from 1981 to 1997). Of course they want their children to experience the same magic they did as kids.

So, did I?

Some parts swept me away. “Be Our Guest” and “Tale As Old As Time” gave me goosebumps; I laughed at the same old jokes and loved the same old scenes (even if “The Mob Song” felt particularly politics du jour). More than once, I found myself mouthing the words to songs I haven’t heard in years.

But the thing about fantasy is, well, it’s fantasy. Disney’s allusions to the plague, 18th-century court life, Shakespeare — why exactly? This is Disney. I check my boil-covered reality at the door.

I’m in the minority on this, judging from the reviews of my friends and family, even from the crowd around me. Two women about my age sat to my right and could not get enough of this movie. I heard sniffles over my left shoulder. More than one group stayed, tissues wrung, through the very last credit.

Because Beauty and the Beast is magic, if not my particular brand. For the new crop of princes and princesses I saw sitting in the audience, tiaras perched and jaws dropped, this movie must be as amazing as the cartoon version was for me all those years ago. They don’t know that Disney took some liberties to give us, the ticket-buying adults, something modern when nostalgia’s all we want.

Disney will sell a lot of tickets, too ($173 million at last count). When I think of the thousands upon thousands of kids who saw this movie this weekend and the thousands (millions?) more who will see it in the years to come, I figure there are worse things. At least this movie inspires, if not fully embraces, conversations about feminism, gay relationships, PTSD, emotional complexity in male characters. Beauty and the Beast also gives a hat tip to the diversity Disney’s long lacked. You will see people of color in this movie. Are they the leads? Baby steps, you can hear Mickey squeak.

Many recent kids’ movies have shown how to successfully walk that fine line between entertainment for children and for the adults they bring along — The Lego Batman Movie comes to mind. Beauty and the Beast doesn’t do us the favor. So be their guest. Then go home and hand your kid a book. It’s what Belle would do.

If you go…

Beauty and the Beast is rated PG; Common Sense Media recommends it for ages 8 and above. Some parts are scary (there are two fight scenes with CG wolves and, of course, the Beast has his moments). Parents also die in this movie, if mainly offstage. Here are five conversations to have with your kids after the movie, including about the not-so-fun parts.

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