2hrs 9mins | Rated PG | Violence
Starring: Emma Watson, Ewan McGregor, Dan Stevens
Any reservations are soon swept aside by a glittering, swirling, twirling production that proves they still make them like they did in the good old days. The live-action Beauty And The Beast closely follows the Disney animated version from 1991 but often feels like a musical from the 1960s.
The crowd scenes could be part of a knees-up from Oliver! and when Emma Watson’s Belle climbs every mountain to sing her heart out you can’t help but think of The Sound Of Music. Its special effects are the only newfangled aspect of the film.
Belle is a bright girl in a dull French provincial backwater who is devoted to her father Maurice (Kevin Kline). She is regarded with suspicion by local villagers, mostly because she would rather read a book than step out with strapping dreamboat Gaston (Luke Evans).
And when her father is held captive in a hidden, cursed castle, it is Belle who steps in to take his place and suffer the wrath of a hideous, horned beast (Dan Stevens). Naturally, if only she could learn to love this misbegotten creature the curse would be lifted and they could all live happily ever after. What are the chances of that?
Director Bill Condon does full justice to the big musical numbers in Beauty And The Beast, staging them with toe-tapping energy and the kind of kaleidoscopic effervescence that was a hallmark of the great choreographer Busby Berkeley.
He has also made a film that should appeal to adults and children alike. Dan Stevens’ beast looks a lot like the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard Of Oz and is more of a grumpy, sarcastic adolescent than a creature likely to scare the little ones.
Emma Watson’s feisty Belle is a little on the bland side but the film’s wholehearted message of tolerance, understanding and finding the inner beauty in everyone is something we can all embrace. Condon’s cast is decidedly star-studded with Ewan McGregor providing zee French accent as candlestick Lumiere, Ian McKellen on duty as cowardly clock Cogsworth and Emma Thompson sounding like she should be serving behind the bar at the Queen Vic as Mrs Potts.
Filming a new version of Beauty And The Beast does feel like Disney is playing it safe but when it provides such good cheer, soaring songs and brings a tear to the eye, you really can’t deny that the oldest of tales still works its magic.
Rotate your phone sideways for more times.