Having proven their strengths recently with the live-action adaptations of ‘Cinderella’ and ‘The Jungle Book’, it only makes sense that ‘Beauty and the Beast’ arrives in theatres with considerable expectation.
One of the House of Mouse’s most beloved tales, 1991’s animated original is a bonafide classic in every sense of the word, and would arguably be considered a far more untouchable commodity than the original animated productions of both ‘Cinderella’ and ‘The Jungle Book’.
So how does director Bill Condon (‘Dreamgirls’) handle the reigns? Whilst it doesn’t touch its animated counterpart in any measure (nor pose a threat to its legacy) ‘Beauty and the Beast’ still proves to be a pleasant, often enchanting feature that evokes both a sense of sparkle and wistfulness.
The story here is essentially a beat-by-beat of the original, with some extra padding thrown in for good measure. Despite the familiarity that comes in viewing there’s an undeniable charm in watching such song-and-dance numbers like “Be Our Guest” (certainly the film’s most flamboyant number) or the opening ensemble piece “Belle” in all their reality. Surprisingly, it’s the sequence centred around egotistical casanova Gaston (played with appropriate swagger by Luke Evans) that registers as the film’s highlight though.
As the titular pair, Emma Watson and Dan Stevens prove acceptable choices, even if Stevens doesn’t perhaps possess the type of traditional aesthetics one would expect for the Beast in his human form; Watson is as lovely as one would expect however.
The casting is uniformly magical though, with the furniture incarnates of Cogsworth the clock and Lumiere the candelabra (played respectively by Ian McKellan and Ewan McGregor) garnering particular attention, and Josh Gad’s wonderfully camp LeFou, Gaston’s adoring sidekick, stealing every moment he appears.
The costume design, art direction and cinematography also prove superb, and only add to the overall transcendence of this beautiful-appearing film that radiates the typical brand of warmth that Disney has excelled at since its creation. A film best not likened to its animated sibling but enjoyed as an attractive slice of nostalgia, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is a crowd-pleaser in every sense of the word.
Beauty and the Beast is in cinemas from March 23rd. Watch the trailer below:
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