This review originally appeared on the now-defunct site FamilyWonder.com, which showcased children's entertainment for parents and caregivers.
Title: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST -- AN ENCHANTED CHRISTMAS
Year: Disney, 1998
Running Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
As Cogsworth, Lumiere, Mrs. Potts, and the rest of the staff prepare for Christmas with Belle and the Prince, they recall the dismal holiday a year earlier, when Belle decided to give the Beast a merry Christmas despite his orders to the contrary. Determined to see her fail so that he could retain his position as the Beast's confidant, the composer/pipe organ Forte lured Belle with music, then tricked her into going into the forbidden forest in search of a Christmas tree.
Though the rest of the staff, then animated household objects, tried to create a festive atmosphere, Belle's near-drowning and subsequent imprisonment by the Beast sent them into despair. Belle's promise that Christmas would bring hope ultimately touched even the Beast, who discovered a book she had crafted for him and decided forgiveness was stronger than anger.
Best For Ages:
Under 2: Though a bit long and scary for toddlers, the music and Christmas ornaments may beguile them.
2-5: Preschoolers are most likely to be entertained by this trite Christmas tale.
6-8: An excellent musical score and a creepy villain will hold the interest of kids who don't mind a rehash of the original BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.
9-12: Die-hard fans of the first film may be pleased to see the characters back again, though the Beast lacks depth and Belle's cheeriness starts to grate.
Educational Value: Belle writes a book in French, and Chip shows his appreciation for literature. Innovative use of household objects makes an impoverished Christmas beautiful. But the Beast's immature, tantrum-filled behavior is indulged, even rewarded.
Entertainment Value: Though inferior in every way to the original, this video does feature lovely new melodies. The animated household objects move with grace, but Belle and the Beast look sketchy. Humor falls flat with offensive jokes from villainous Forte.
Violence: Forte uses shrill music to shatter windows and collapse ceilings. The Beast throws violent tantrums and breaks furniture.
Emotional Intensity: Forte expresses terror at no longer being needed by the Beast. The Beast, in turn, expresses terror at being alone and unloved.
Frightening Situations: Huge, menacing Forte uses loud music to threaten other characters. Wolves prowl the woods as several characters search in the darkness for a Christmas tree. Belle and Chip fall through a crack in the ice and nearly drown.
Questionable Behavior: The Beast behaves like a spoiled child, demanding that everyone in the castle cater to his whims. For the most part he is indulged rather than chastised.
Gender/Racial Insensitivity: Though she takes initiative and is well-liked as an individual, the animated household objects discuss Belle as if she were a passive creature who could be manipulated into falling in love with an undeserving Beast.
Though the characters give lip service to Christmas themes of hope and love, AN ENCHANTED CHRISTMAS has a dark theme and a nasty tone. Voiced by Tim Curry, Forte resembles a drag queen and spouts spiteful comments about love in his possessive efforts to keep the Beast in thrall. The Beast, in turn, behaves like the monster he despises resembling, yet the servents pamper and coddle him because he's their only hope for freedom from the spell. Spell or no, it’s a wonder they don't rebel and take over the castle.
As is typical with contemporary Christmas movies, there is no mention of God or the historical meaning of the holiday, which may bother some parents. The underlying commercialism may disturb even more. Belle patiently explains to Chip that Christmas is about gifts and glitter. The book she writes for the Beast contains scenes right out of Disney’s ALADDIN and THE LITTLE MERMAID. When she teaches the Beast to ice skate, it's hard not to visualize the same scene being reenacted in Disney's World On Ice.
A few positive aspects keep the video from being unwatchable. The songs and character voices are pretty, especially contrasted with Forte's haunted house music. The story is sometimes compelling, though rather dark for young children and too unsophisticated for preteens. BELLE'S MAGICAL WORLD may please BEAUTY AND THE BEAST fans more than this twisted version of it. If you are looking for a great Disney Christmas movie try MICKEY'S ONCE UPON A CHRISTMAS.
Children's Television Reviews