DISNEY’S stellar run continues with their finest live action remake to date.
Emma Watson takes the lead role as Belle, a beautiful and dignified bookworm who finds herself branded ‘funny’ by the village locals. One day Belle’s father, Maurice (Kevin Kline), goes missing and the hunt to find him leads her to a mysterious and decrepit castle hidden deep in the woods.
When Belle ventures inside, she is horrified to discover Maurice has been imprisoned by a hostile Beast (Dan Stevens) – formerly a dashing socialite prince whose vanity and conceit brought this physical curse upon him. In an act of selflessness, Belle trades places with her elderly father and vows to escape the Beast’s clutches.
As she starts to discover there is more to the beast and the castle he inhabits, Maurice races back home to seek help from the villagers. In desperation, he enlists the help of narcissistic former solider Gaston (Luke Evans) – whose obsession with Belle has more to do with a ballooning ego – and his blindly loyal sidekick LeFou (Josh Gad).
Of course, most of us are aware of what follows before we purchase a ticket. But the beauty of these live action remakes is that they bring a renewed sense of purpose to these beloved stories. We obviously don’t want our childhood attachment to the 1991 animated version to be spoiled. Yet we must accept that even the tale as old as time needs to be reframed and modernised for younger generations.
Luckily, director Bill Condon captures the Disney fairy tale spirit in way that should enchant young, old and in-between.
That begins with Watson’s well-measured performance which thrives on its gentle simplicity and also sets the tone for a cast of endearing displays. No more so than McGregor’s voicing of Lumiere, the charismatic candle that brings a glowing energy to the magical castle.
His chemistry with McKellen (Cogsworth) is a highlight alongside the film’s other dynamic duo: Evans and Gad.
Much has been made of the sexual orientation of Gad’s character but it all feels secondary to their thoroughly entertaining scenes together. They deliver the film’s biggest laughs while keeping their child-friendly menace intact. Together Gad and Evans make for perfect Disney baddies.
With slightly distracting CGI to overcome, Stevens’ does a fine job conveying the Beast’s conflict of bitter frustration and uneasy optimism.
The songs retain that classic Disney charm and are paired with dazzlingly designed visuals, some of which pay homage to The Sound of Music (1965) and Busby Berkeley among others.
Unfortunately, a frustrating misstep comes in the ballroom scene, made iconic by the innovative sweeping camera shots in the animated film, which suffers from an ill-advised and contrived cocky accent from Emma Thompson (Mrs Potts).
But it is merely a small thorn in this rose of a film. One that marks an improvement on last year’s Jungle Book and bodes well for the plethora of Disney live action remakes in the works.
So be my guest. Put this complimentary review to the test. Go and treat yourself to Beauty and the Beast.
Beauty and the Beast – 3/5
Dir: Bill Condon
Scr: Stephen Chbosky, Evan Spiliotopoulos
Cast: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Audra McDonald, Stanley Tucci, Gugu Mbatha-Raw
DOP: Tobias A Schliessler
Music: Alan Menken
Runtime: 1hr 50