Beauty and the Beast (PG)
Age 8+

Fantastic but scarier remake of the “tale as old as time.”

Beauty and the Beast” is Disney’s live-action remake of the classic 1991 animated musical (see below), with Emma Watson as book-loving, independent Belle and Dan Stevens as the Beast. Although the movie will appeal to even very young viewers, especially those familiar with the original, the remake’s violent sequences can be very intense, with a few jump-worthy and upsetting moments (several involving snarling wolves, others guns) that leave characters bloodied, injured and, in one case, dead. As always, the story encourages viewers to look beyond the superficial and to be compassionate, curious, humble and generous. Director Bill Condon took care to make sure that this version had diverse supporting characters, including a gay LeFou (Josh Gad) — Gaston’s sidekick — and people of color not represented in the animated version. (129 minutes)

Beauty and the Beast (G)

Streaming

Age 6+

Disney fave has great music, strong messages, some scares.

Beauty and the Beast” (1991) is one of Disney’s most beloved “princess” stories — and the first animated film to be nominated for a best-picture Oscar. Beast’s initial ferocity might scare younger viewers, though once they’ve seen his gentle side, scenes of him being hunted and stabbed by Gaston are likely to be emotionally upsetting. The sequence in which a mob comes after Beast is also quite intense, and there’s a fair bit of cleavage on display during the bar-set “Gaston” number. But kids mature enough for feature-length stories will find this one of the best Disney movies they could spend time with in terms of intelligence, quality and originality — not to mention having one of Disney’s smartest, most independent heroines. (84 minutes)

Available via iTunes, Amazon video and YouTube.

(Ipso Facto Productions and Smudge Films)
This Beautiful Fantastic (PG)
Age 8+

Whimsical, sweet story about friendship, gardening.

This Beautiful Fantastic” is a sentimental English romantic dramedy with the tone and feel of a real-life fairy story, which makes it suitable for kids. Its comic, whimsical approach softens the fact that the lead character, a shy and unusual young woman (Jessica Brown Findlay of “Downton Abbey”), was abandoned as an infant and, as an adult, seems to be suffering from obsessive-compulsive urges (her compulsions and phobias are portrayed as charming quirks, rather than serious issues). She experiences some heartbreak but recovers. Her greatest challenge is to get out and live her life, and friends help her learn how — she also learns to work hard and persevere to meet a challenging goal. A character dies (off-screen), but he leaves an inspiring legacy. Strong language is infrequent but includes “bastard,” “hell” and “bloody.” There’s some flirting and brief kissing, and adults drink wine. Arguments and a strong storm could distress sensitive kids, but they pass quickly. (100 minutes)

Julie’s Greenroom (Unrated)

Streaming

Age 4+

Delightful Netflix series teaches young kids about performance arts.

Julie’s Greenroom” stars Julie Andrews and original puppets from the Jim Henson Company in a preschool-geared educational introduction to the performing arts. Andrews plays the owner of a performing studio who teaches the kids all about putting on a stage show with the help of such guest stars as Idina Menzel and Ellie Kemper, who drop in to mentor the kids in specific aspects of performing. The characters’ dialogue acquaints kids with terminology like stage right and left, ghost light and, of course, a greenroom, all while maintaining an organic and kid-friendly quality. In other words, it teaches without instructing, instead letting the characters’ discoveries inspire the audience’s. There’s basic introduction to original music, technical components of stage production, and the nuts and bolts of costumes and props, appealing to a wide span of interests. Even better, the characters’ experiences also inspire valuable life lessons such as overcoming adversity, working as a team and appreciating diversity. (30 minute episodes)

Available via Netflix streaming.

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