Film review: Beauty and the Beast – Emma Watson, Dan Stevens in delightful live-action musical
Disney’s classic 1991 fairy-tale animation gets a faithful reworking with solid performances, great songs and some clever CGI
After Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty spin-off Maleficent , Disney’s remaking classic animations as live-action films continues with Beauty and the Beast. Taken from the 1991 cartoon adaptation of the classic fairy tale by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, there are times when Bill Condon’s reverential film almost feels like a shot-for-shot reworking, but given how beloved the original is, that’s no bad thing.
A radiant Emma Watson plays Belle, the plucky villager who encounters the Beast (Dan Stevens), a prince who has been cursed by an enchantress to live out his days in this monstrous form. Initially held prisoner by the Beast in his permanently wintry castle, Belle gradually falls for this well-read but lonely creature – whose only chance of lifting the spell is to find true love.
The production design and costumes, notably Belle’s stunning yellow dress, are impeccable, but the film really comes into its own with the CGI. Vividly voiced by Ewan McGregor (as Lumière, the French-sounding candelabra), Ian McKellen (as the clock Cogsworth) and Emma Thompson (as Mrs Potts, a very chatty teapot), these come-alive ‘antiquities’ beautifully interact with the human characters around them.
Back in the village, Luke Evans gives a solid, if slightly unremarkable, performance as Gaston, the arrogant suitor to Belle. He’s rather outshone by Josh Gad, who plays his faithful friend LeFou (who turns out to be the first openly gay character in a Disney film, a moment that is hardly dwelled upon). Kevin Kline as Belle’s father is also a warm and welcome presence.
This being a musical, the songs are the real highlights – in particular Be Our Guest sung by Lumière and the others as they welcome Belle to dinner. Yet, by the end, the love story takes over and this joyous fairy tale about acceptance finds the capacity to move. Under Condon’s watchful eye, a whole new generation of children will fall in love with Belle and her Beast.
Beauty and the Beast opens on March 16
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