Sprinkled with music, romance, stunning scenery, sentiment and comedy, this nostalgic tale is certainly one worth retelling.
Directed by “Dreamgirls,” helmer Bill Condon and based on Disney’s Oscar-nominated 1991 film “Beauty and the Beast,” it’s a live-action adaptation of the studio’s animated classic about a young woman who warms the icy heart of a beastly Prince.
The story remains rather faithful to the original narrative and stars Emma Watson as Belle, a bookish young woman from the small village of Villeneuve, whose father (Kevin Kline) is locked up in a lavish, remote castle by a heinous Beast (Dan Stevens), after he’s caught stealing a rose. A former Prince, the Beast has been cursed and condemned to a decaying castle where he and his staff have been transformed into furniture. When Belle discovers her father has been held captive, she offers herself in his place, which delights the castle’s magical inhabitants – including Lumiere the candlestick (Ewan McGregor), Cogsworth the clock (Ian McKellen), Mrs Potts the teapot (Emma Thompson) and Plumette (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a maid turned elegant feather duster. Given Beast and Belle's conflicted relationship, which is rife with animosity and resentment, romance appears out of the question, but Belle inspires him to become a better person and despite the chaos that ensures when Gaston (Luke Evans), a shallow and arrogant villager intent on marrying Belle shows up, everything works out and everyone ends up living happily ever after.
Josh Gad plays Gaston’s trusty assistant LeFou amusingly well and the rapport between the pair deliver the film’s comic relief. There’s awesome mountain scenery of Watson singing, which is reminiscent of Julie Andrews in “The Sound of Music,” and this version offers a glimpse into the Prince’s life before he became the Beast and also expands on Belle’s life before she goes to the castle and meets the Beast. It has enduring charm and its empowering message that true beauty comes from within is firmly still in place. The musical numbers from the animated film are there, plus new Alan Menken and Tim Rice songs added to the original Menken and Howard Ashman animated film score.
Appealing to the whole family, it gives the cast a chance to sing and perform charmingly, adding the direction is excellent, as Condon, a fan of musical theater who is familiar with the songs and musical references, keeps his cast on the move throughout the slightly less than two and half hour performance. If there’s one drawback here, it’s the running time and the film would benefit by being 45 minutes shorter.
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