NEW THIS WEEK
-- THE WOLVES IN THE FOREST ARE EVEN SCARIER IN 3-D, BUT THE FUN IS THE SAME:
"BEAUTY AND THE BEAST 3D" G -- Ever ready to revive an old hit to bring in new money, Disney has digitally remastered its lovely 1991 animated musical classic, "Beauty and the Beast" (also rated G) in 3-D. The film remains a delight, but parents of kids under 8 should note that the wolves that surround Belle's father in the forest, and that later threaten her, are even more frightening in 3-D. There's nightmare fodder in those wolves. In 1991, this was a groundbreaking film because it mixed hand-drawn animation with backgrounds created using computers. The result is still stunning. The songs are still great. Gaston is still a hilariously vain and stupid villain. The Beast is still pretty creepy at first. His servants, under the spell with him, are still funny and kind as Lumiere, the talking candelabra; Cogsworth, the talking clock; Mrs. Potts, the tea kettle; and her son Chip, the tea cup.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Aside from the more intense 3-D scenes with the wolves, other elements that catch one's attention two-plus decades later: The girls in Belle's village are a tad more buxom, and with more decolletage than they'd probably have if the film were made today. And Belle herself has really long nails -- a style today's animators would probably eschew. The big fight near the end shows Gaston falling to his (presumable) death. The Beast is wounded.
-- HOLLYWOOD'S ANSWER TO INDEPENDENT CHRISTIAN-THEMED FILMS: GLITZIER AND LESS PIOUS, BUT SIMILARLY UPLIFTING IN TONE:
"JOYFUL NOISE" PG-13 -- Kids 12 and older who like comedies about grown-ups acting silly and stories laced with a touch of spiritual revival might have a little fun at "Joyful Noise." Still, they'll have to forgive the movie's excessive two-hour length and disjointed mess of a story. Dolly Parton plays G.G., a wealthy member of the church choir in a financially struggling Georgia hamlet. In the prologue, her husband (Kris Kristofferson), who leads the choir, has a heart attack and dies off-camera. The pastor (Courtney B. Vance) appoints choir member Vi Rose Hill (Queen Latifah) to be the new choir director, which miffs G.G. The glitzy G.G. and the cranky Vi Rose can't stand each other. Vi Rose's husband (Jesse L. Martin) is estranged from the family and in the military. She works as a nurse, has a teenage son Walter (excellent Dexter Darden), with Asperger's syndrome, and a 16-year-old daughter Olivia (KeKe Palmer) with a great voice and a sense her mom is stifling her. G.G.'s wayward grandson Randy (Jeremy Jordan) comes to stay with her and immediately starts courting Olivia and trying to get the choir to update its repertoire for national competitions. There's too much poorly directed plot, but the singing and corny good humor make up for it -- kinda.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The script includes a couple of barnyard epithets and some mild sexual slang. Two secondary characters have sex out of wedlock.
-- MERYL STREEP NAILS MARGARET THATCHER-ISHNESS IN THIS PORTRAIT, MORE LIKELY TO INTEREST BABY BOOMERS THAN THEIR KIDS OR GRANDKIDS:
"THE IRON LADY" PG-13; Limited Release -- It's unlikely teens or even most college students -- except perhaps history and poli-sci majors -- will have much interest in this unusual, rather nonpolitical study of Britain's first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher. It worked for The Family Filmgoer, but many young people will squirm through its stately pace. Teens interested in the finer points of acting, however, can delight in Meryl Streep's infinitely detailed embodiment of the grande dame. Thatcher held office for a bit longer than a decade (1979 -- 1990) and became American president Ronald Reagan's Cold War partner. Told from the point of view of an elderly, widowed and ever more distracted Thatcher, the film will disappoint those who wanted more of a critique of her policies. Instead they get her history in fragmented flashbacks. This oblique approach taken by director Phyllida Lloyd and screenwriter Abi Morgan is an acquired taste.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The film includes frightening re-enactments of IRA bombings, raucous, occasionally violent anti-Thatcher demonstrations and strikes. There are archival shots of war violence and brief toplessness. A central theme is the elderly Thatcher's slow descent into dementia. Some characters drink and smoke.
(c) 2012, Washington Post Writers Group.