There are plenty of good reasons to see Beauty and the Beast 3D, even if the on-trend big-screen 3-D-ness of the experience is much more about market extension than artistic imperative. For starters, there is the unmatchable pleasure of watching this modern classic — the first animated feature to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, in 1992 — the old-fashioned way, in a movie theater. (You can already see the movie in 3-D at home on Blu-ray.) Belle, the beautiful book-loving inventor’s daughter, and Beast, the handsome prince made ugly as a magical punishment for his coldheartedness, return to audiences as dear old friends. The songs unleash a chemical reaction of happiness. The set pieces are narcotically pleasing, especially the Busby Berkeley-style dancing-kitchenware spectacular, ”Be Our Guest,” and the romantic ballroom centerpiece that brings Beauty and her Beast together, set to Angela Lansbury’s lullaby rendition of the theme song. The generous movie-house screen enhances the power of the film’s brilliant color palette. And the new release is preceded by an agile, very merry short, Tangled Ever After, in which slapstick mayhem involving errant wedding rings threatens to mess up the uniting of Tangled’s Rapunzel and her man, Flynn Rider.
But with the injection of 3-D novelty, all this movie-theater wonderfulness comes at a price. According to unbeautiful language in the movie’s production notes, this version ”dimensionalizes” the hand-drawn film to intensify the viewer’s emotional responses, ideally without drawing attention to the visual jiggering involved. To this animation lover, the variation is more akin to colorization — making the movie something it inherently is not and wasn’t meant to be. Maybe I’m just being a beast. B+