Christmas at Kris Lexiaís: Beauty and the Beast Style
In the spirit of the holidays, it seemed appropriate to talk a little bit about one of my favorite Disney direct-to-video sequels: Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas. If princess movies arenít your bag, I apologize. I canít find it in me to come up with a more sincere apology, however, because I have a burning passion for this particular holiday film. To me, this tale is as classic as any of those Rankin-Bass craptacular stop-motion nightmares. Taking place during the events of the first movie, this seventy-two-minute tale follows Belle as she tries to convince Beast of the magic of the holiday season. It never really made sense to me why Beast would hate Christmas in the context of Beauty and the Beast considering the picturesque wint'ry montage that accompanies ďSomething ThereĒ, the song that marks the turning point in Belle and Beastís relationship. Then again, this is a direct-to-video sequel, so anything that doesnít have a theatrical release may as well not exist in terms of the Corporate Mouseís canon. Or, and this is a more likely theory, Iím very much overthinking a childrenís movie.
At any rate, I didnít come back to this movie time and time again for the tenuous schmaltzy premise. I came back for the villain of the hour, Forte the evil pipe organ. His evil scheme is to prevent the enchantment from being lifted so that he may remain alive by splitting Belle and Beast up; thatís pretty nefarious stuff, if you ask me, considering Beast will wither away and die if he cannot find love before the last petal falls on the enchanted rose. As is revealed later in the movie, he is in fact a heartless sack of shit and goes as far as to coerce the Beast into contemplating suicide. I know Disney has had some pretty morally-devoid villains in their theatrical releases, but Iím convinced they save the most interesting of them for their television shows and direct-to-video movies. Forte is at the top of that list, followed by Mirage and Mozenrath from Disney's Aladdin television series.
In addition to manifesting through the most imposing instrument ever, Forte is voiced by a master of frights and delights alike: Tim Motherfucking Curry. As a child, I found myself strangely attracted to this grotesque-looking computer-generated monstrosity for reasons my tiny brain couldnít comprehend, but now I fully understand: I was sucked in by the dulcet tones of Dr. Frank-N-Furter himself. To emphasize how impressively seductive that manís voice is, let me refer you to the picture of the freaky ass pipe organ above.
I understand that computer-generated animation was pretty new in 1997, but the combination of two-dimensional animation and this uncanny creature is unnerving to say the least. Whatís even more unnerving is his manipulation of the kindly Fife, voiced by Paul "Pee-Wee Herman" Reubens. Since Forte is bolted to the wall, he needs someone who can move freely to help him carry out his scheme. As both a pipe organ and a would-be composer, Forte promises the naive little wind instrument a solo arrangement in exchange for his assistance in splitting up Belle and Beast. His face lights up like a Christmas tree when he sees the top of an octavo emblazoned with the words ďSolo for FifeĒ. As the youngest of a family of musicians, I know well the thrill of having your instrumental skills featured. I wouldnít perform unsavory or amoral acts for a band director or conductor, but there are few other things I wouldnít do for the chance to shine. I donít blame you, Fife. Woodwinds have it rough in a world dominated by brass instruments. It breaks my heart that he follows Forteís orders in the hopes of that empty promise being fulfilled. What kind of a sick person would deny that charming face what he wants most in life?
While all of this is going on, Belle is trying her damndest to surprise Beast with an enchanted Christmas. She seeks out the assistance of Angelique (Bernadette Peters), former castle decorator and current radiant tree-topper, to help bring her fantasy holiday to life. Angelique at first refuses, but as Belle sings the show-stopping number ďAs Long As Thereís ChristmasĒ, her resolve melts away. All of the servants as well as the Christmas decorations begin bouncing around with excitement, forming a mock tree where they hope to later place an extravagant conifer. Dreams of tinsel, holly, and an extravagant feast dance in the heads of the main cast, all of them quickly getting swept up in Belleís excitement. The piece de resistance is Belleís personalized gift to Beast, a handwritten storybook about the Christmas she was certain they would have together. Nauseating, I know, but itís Disney and it makes my stone cold heart beat like a taiko drum.
The plot thickens when Forte sets into motion a scheme to either kill or seriously maim Belle. She goes on a hunt with Chip and crew for what Forte describes as the biggest, best tree around, which he also claims was always Beastís favorite thing about Christmas. This doesnít happen, of course, before Belle sneaks her Christmas present into Beastís study. Meanwhile, the evil organ sends Fife to make sure that Belle doesnít return, and tells the Beast that Belle has abandoned him. Naturally, he storms out of the castle to reclaim her because he believes she has broken her promise to never leave. When they chop down the absurdly large tree, the ice inevitably breaks beneath them, and Chip falls beneath the icy water. Belle dives in and is able to rescue him, but not without slipping back beneath the waves herself. Itís around this point where Fife starts to realize that maybe Forteís machinations are not worth a solo. Heís really not a bad guy, after all, just a desperate musician.
At any rate, Beast comes searching for Belle around then and rescues her limp, frigid body. Youíd think heíd be more concerned for Belleís well-being when he finds her nearly drowned and presumably freezing, but nah. Beast is still being a mercurial brat because Belle has not yet cooled his hot temper with a fresh island song. So Beast gets angry and locks her in the dungeon as a punishment, where he says she will remain forever. Once again, there will be no Christmas in the castle, and all of the little animated plates, cups, and feather dusters will have another disappointing December 25. No ďJoyeux NoelĒ to be had. The End.
But what sort of a holiday film would end so miserably? Not this one. As Belle mourns the death of Christmas in the dungeon, Angelique and crew come to cheer her up. Despite the less than ideal circumstances, there is still a reason for smiles and not simply tears. They realize that with or without Beastís permission, it is still Christmas within their hearts. Thereís a heartwarming reprise of ďAs Long As Thereís Christmas" sung by Angelique and Belle. Through their vocal stylings, hope has returned to snowy, pastoral France!
As I previously mentioned, Angelique is voiced by Broadway sweetheart Bernadette Peters. Sheís well-known for playing The Witch in Stephen Sondheimís A Little Night Music and the stepmother in the 1997 TV movie version of Rodgers and Hammersteinís Cinderella. She has an absolutely stunning voice and Iím honestly in awe that they got her to voice act for a non-theatrical release. She adds a dash of panache where the film could easily have stayed stagnant.
No surprises here; Beast goes back to hang out with Forte and brood about how girls have cooties or something like that. Hoping to prolong his sentient existence, Forte urges Beast to destroy the rose and end his pain. That is honestly the most evil thing I can imagine anyone doing. Itís not your place to prompt suicide for your own selfish gain, you bastard. Luckily, as Beast uncovers the rose, a petal falls upon the unopened Christmas gift from Belle. Itís worth noting that in the animation where he reads her story, the text is written in French with the exception of the word ďhopeĒ. I think itís a really nice touch thatís probably gone underappreciated by six-year-olds everywhere.
As Iíve already indicated, Beast opens the package, reads the charming Christmas tale, and immediately realizes he was being a petulant manchild. He rushes to the dungeon to apologize to Belle, they reconcile, and their true Christmas celebration may finally begin! Thereís a super cute kiss fake out moment here that gives me a warm fuzzy feeling.
Unfortunately, this did not give our windbag villain a warm fuzzy feeling. If the Beast wonít give up hope, and that pesky, literate young woman wonít give up being alive, he has no choice but to take matters into his nonexistent hands. A cacophony shakes the very foundation of the castle as Forte fights back with his music. Honestly, itís hard to tell from his dialogue at this point whether heís attention-starved in addition to being selfish. He decries the very thought of being unneeded as though thatís whatís sparked his whole evil scheme rather than a desire to be living instead of an inanimate object. Iím not here to be the Plot Hole Police, though, so Iíll let this one slide.
Anyways, Fife confronts Forte and discovers that he has been taken advantage of, seeing the blank sheet music. Iíve got to hand it to the little guy for coming in, guns blazing, ready to take on an instrument a thousand times his size. Unfortunately, he just doesnít have the brute strength that Beast does. An epic battle commences with luminescent music notes as the weapon. It seems that even the strong, imposing Beast cannot defeat Forte, but Fife gives the Beast insider knowledge to help him win the fight: attack the keyboard. Beast rips the keyboard from the rest of the organ and Forteís arcane song comes to a stop. The rest of the organ collapses around them, and Christmas has finally been saved. For realsies this time.
The movie then fast forwards to (presumably) the first Christmas after the enchantment has been lifted from the castle. This isnít out of nowhere, of course. The movie is actually a frame narrative, both beginning and ending after the events of the first movie, and then flashing back for our festive Christmas tale. The frame narrative is barely worth mentioning save for the concluding segment. It only seems to exist as an excuse to send the narrative back in time and bring us back for one last moment of triumph for our protagonists. Prince Adam and Belle look absolutely radiant in their holiday attire at their holiday shindig, a warm, cheery celebration with their servants and friends.The film finally ends with none other than Fife leading an orchestra in a cheery song, with his namesake instrument as the lead. Iím so happy for the little guy. I know heís not the main character, but honestly, I was rooting for him the whole time. We were all rooting for you!
So there you have it, a festive film I hope becomes an instant classic in your home. Or you could just watch Elf the next time itís on TV. Iím not here to judge you. In the meantime, Iím totally not going to watch this movie for the third consecutive time today. Have a very Merry Christmas and the happiest and healthiest of new years! Catch you on the flipside.
Posted by: Kris Lexia
HOPE IS THE GREATEST OF THE GIFTS WE RECEIVE.