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HomeArts & CultureFilm review: Fantasy takes on a new role in Beauty and the Beast

Film review: Fantasy takes on a new role in Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast

Director: Bill Condon

Starring: Dan Stevens, Emma Watson, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Euan McGregor

Four stars

Remaking a classic is often a risky enterprise – just look at the lukewarm reception Paul Feig received for his Ghostbusters reboot, or the lead balloon that was Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day: Resurgence.

Disney, at least, has good form in this department, with its revisits to the Star Wars universe almost universally praised.

Its frequent forays into the Marvel back catalogue (Captain America: Civil War and the Iron Man franchise) haven’t exactly done its accounts much harm either.

Now Disney has dipped its own back catalogue with a live action remake of its 1991 animated hit, Beauty and the Beast, and the overall result is a winner.

The story surely needs little introduction – the fairy tale itself is timeless.

A handsome prince gets on the wrong side of a powerful sorceress and is condemned to spend his remaining days as a hideous beast (Dan Stevens) – only true love can break the spell.

An unfortunate set of circumstances leads to our heroine Belle (Emma Watson) being imprisoned in the beast’s castle, but as time passes, a kind of fairy tale Stockholm syndrome develops and the pair grow increasingly fond of each other.

You can probably guess where we go from here.

The film is a visual and aural treat. The costumes, sets and huge ensemble musical numbers are an exercise in excess, and the stellar cast enter into a bombastic musical mode.

The film has a bit of everything: song and dance, romance, action, impressive CGI – particularly when bringing the beast’s court to life following their transformation into household objects by the sorceress.

Ian McKellen’s Cogsworth becomes clock, and Ewan McGregor’s French dandy Lumiere is a candlestick.

Of course at heart this is a kids’ film, but parents will surely enjoy the spectacle of it all.

There’s humour, conflict, intrigue and enough action to keep more mature minds interested. Those with an emotional attachment to the 1991 movie won’t be disappointed by its successor.

The film sticks fairly closely to the original material, save for an opening scene, where we meet the prince before his transformation, giving an added dose of pathos to his fall from grace. Watson and Stevens make for an engaging lead couple. There’s an unassuming intelligence behind the doll-like innocence of Watson’s Belle, while Stevens’s beast is particularly mesmerising – I had completely forgotten the actor was under the impressive costume.

The developing romance between the pair sparked by a mutual love of reading, though unconventional, is convincing.

With a strong supporting cast – Kevin Kline, Stanley Tucci and Emma Thompson as the indomitable Mrs Potts – the script is utilised to the full.

Give Beauty and the Beast a try and even the most cynical viewer would struggle not to be charmed by it all.

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