Thursday, March 8, 2012

Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas Special Edition (Blu-ray Review)

Celebrate the most magical time of the year with this Special Edition of the irresistible holiday movie inspired by Disney’s beloved classic. For the first time in spectacular Blu-ray High Definition this captivating gem reunites the original voice cast!  Share the wonder as Mrs. Potts recounts another “tale as old as time” about a Christmas past that almost wasn’t – thanks to the scheming of former court composer Forte, who is determined to keep Belle and Beast apart forever.  This enchanting adventure boasts exciting bonus features, delightful songs, spellbinding visuals and enduring themes of hope, friendship and love. Your family will enjoy the spirit of the season all year long with the timeless magic of  Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas.

Film (3 out of 5 stars) 

After the phenomenal success of Beauty and the Beast, it was no surprise that the studio wanted to get another one out as soon as possible.  After the success of the direct to video releases of Aladdin sequels, Disney decided to go that route which cuts down costs and gave some work to their television program animators.  And just like with the Aladdin sequels, there was a hungry public for the continuation of the stories but what we got was a subpar cash grab in their place.  Some of the sequels were decent like The Jungle Book 2, while others like Beauty and the Beast: Belle’s Magical World (see my review here) were disappointments.  I for one love sequels if they are done right and it’s a shame that so many Disney direct to video releases tarnished the Disney name and the movies they were based on.
Out of the two Beauty and the Beast follow up movies (neither was technically a sequel), this one is the better of the two, but it’s not in the same league as the original Beauty and the Beast (see my review here).  Much like Belle’s Magical World, this story makes the Beast look like a jerk and removes any symphathyt the character engendered in the first movie.  While he’s not smacking servants this time around like he does in the other sequel, he is still in a constant state of anger which I would think would get old real fast for the others that have to live with him.
The movie opens post Beauty and the Beast with Prince Adam restored to himself after the spell was broken.  Belle and Adam are throwing a party at the castle for the local villagers.  While the party is being set up, Lumiere and Cogsworth are arguing over who saved Christmas before.  Chip wants to hear the story of what happened and since Lumiere and Cogsworth are unreliable narrators, Mrs. Potts is enlisted to tell the tale.  The film then transitions to a flashback of the previous events back when the servants and Adam were enchanted and right after the point when Beast saved Belle from the wolves during her escape attempt.
This time around the Beast throws a fit about Christmas because in an eye-rolling retcon, the day he slammed the door in the old woman’s face and got transformed just happened to be on Christmas. Who slams a door on a freezing old woman on Christmas?  That definitely put him on the naughty list.  Because of that convenient change, the Beast now hates Christmas and has forbidden the servants from celebrating it.  Belle tries to change his mind by teaching him how to ice skate but when he crashes into the snow, he throws a hissy fit and storms back to the castle.
Belle, being Belle, decides to throw a Christmas party anyway and gets the rest of the servants to help her out.  You’d think that by this point she would know how the Beast would react to that, but she does it anyway.  While she starts making preparations for the pary, the Beast goes to the basement to whine to his friend Forte, the court composer who has been transformed into an evil pipe organ.  Forte tries to convince the Beast to give up on the hope that they will be transformed back and to forget about Belle.  Forte for some reason likes being an evil organ and doesn’t want to convert back, but since he can’t move he sends his impressionable minion Fife to sabotage any chance that might improve Belle and the Beast’s relationship.
When the Beast inevitably finds out about the Christmas party, he throws a tantrum which leaves Belle sad.  In a desperate attempt to understand him, she goes to talk to Forte since she knows that his is friends with Beast to ask for advice.  Forte tells her to journey deep into the forest to find a special Christmas tree since the Beast loved them as a boy.  Forte knows he’s sending Belle to her almost certain death and takes delight knowing that now there will no chance for them to be transformed back to human form.
Of course, Belle gets in trouble and when the Beast learns of her danger, he races to her rescue with Lumiere, Cogsworth, Fife, and Axe.  Beast manages to save Belle but because she was continuing to go against his Christmas wishes, he throws her into his dungeon to rot.  Since we’ve already seen how it ends at the start of the movie, it shouldn’t be too surprising that the Beast will have a change of heart and learn the true meaning of Christmas. Unfortunately, Forte doesn’t learn this lesson and instead of playing Christmas music like a nice organ, he chooses to fight the Beast to the death.
This wasn’t a terrible movie but compared to the original film, it is something of a letdown but still a lot better than the next installment that followed this.  It’s nice to see all of the characters back along with their original actors voicing the parts and the animation here is better than the third one too.  The main problem with the movie is its formulaic plot and its willingness to change plot points to better serve the story it wants to tell.  The music is okay but not anywhere as memorable as the original film’s.  I wish they would have made a true sequel with the features animation staff creating it which would have turned out a lot better.

Video (4 out of 5 stars) 

This 1080p (1.78:1) transfer was done well but is wasted on the television quality animation.  Details are good and colors look vibrant but it just makes this movie look even worse when held up to the microscope of high definition.  The computer generated Forte comes off the worst since the high resolution does him no favors.  Black levels are dark and solid and there’s no scratches or anything to distract you from the movie.

Audio (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas Special Edition’s DTS-HS Master Audio 5.1 mix is a blend of highs and lows.  Much of the movie is low key but watch out whenever Forte is on the screen because when he starts playing, the LFE roars to life at a much higher volume than the rest of the movie.  The front channels offer some clear and concise dialogue and the rear channels help the music and effects surround the room.  All in all this is a decent mix, but I wish they had balanced it better.

Special Features (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

There’s not a lot on here but there’s more on this disc than on Belle’s Magical World.
  • Disney’s Sing Me a Story with Belle – A live action television epsidode where Belle and the rest sing and learn lessons.
  • Disney’s Sing Along Mode – A sing along feature that can be turned on for some karoake singing.
  • Disney’s Song Selection – This allows you to jump to the many questionable songs in the movie.
  • Behind the Scenes – A look behind the scenes of how the movie was made and if you select the small Mickey when he pops up, you will get even more in depth information.
  • Music Video –   “As Long as There’s Christmas”

Final Thoughts (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

While I can’t whole-heartedly recommend this movie to anyone other than small undiscerning children, I can say that this is a lot better than Belle’s Magical World.  While the movie could have been better, the Blu-ray itself looks and sounds pretty good so if you want this movie then make sure you get the Blu-ray edition.
Order your copy today!

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