beauty and the beast

Imagine you are in drama school you dream of dressing in fine period costumes, dancing on colossal expensive sets and belting out show tunes.

You will of course never get to do this, or will you?

After the successful retooling of the animated “Jungle Book” into live action, Disney is plundering it’s back catalogue searching for further hits. This has many benefits, including built in audience awareness, fondly remembering their own childhoods and a younger generation just waiting to be charmed and buy Disney merchandise.

“Belle” Emma Watson is the beautiful daughter of local widowed watch maker “Maurice” Kevin Kline. Head strong and exuding female empowerment in every action, she reads books (shock) and strains against the constraints of her small minded mythical village.

Meanwhile far, far away in a distant land – well actually not that far. There lives a callous prince with a spell cast upon him for being heartless and loving no-one but himself. Destined to go though life as the eponymous “Beast”, he is attended by a collection of anthropomorphized home-ware, all of which come to life and talk, as you do.

Candelabra, foot stool, dresser, mantle-piece clock, teapot and cup all voiced by A list talent, which are more fun to recognize in the credits, so not listed here.

Of course a Disney fable needs a villain, here in the form of ner’ do well “Gaston” Luke Evans and his ever trusty friend “LeFou” Josh Gad. Of course Gaston has his heart set on Belle who turns away his affection in modern style, with a look “as if”. Meanwhile LeFou has maybe his heart set closer to home, a Disney first which ridiculously has caused consternation in some movie world markets. Beware of one star reviews posted just for this absurd reason.

Reworking classics loved by millions is perilous indeed but if done sympathetically and with care, rewards can be yours, oh yes to the tune of $1bn or more.

Not being a dedicated fan of musicals it is easy to dismiss such a film but, done this well, the movie is difficult to fault. Watson must have spent half of her career acting to special effects green screens in “Harry Potter”, yet she radiates warmth and compassion on the screen perfectly. Both with modern sensibilities yet not forgetting the source material, superb work.

Steven’s is a long way from “Downton Abbey”, surely the best and most courageous career move ever made. Despite acting in a massive body suit and clod hopper boots, his acting still comes through, small touches of humour puncture any accusations of pomposity.

Evans is clearly having the time of his life, this is why you get into show-business, if he had a mustache he would surely be twirling it. Preening, narcissistic, misogynist, gung-ho and willing to excite the mob to fight non-existent threats to cover his own in-securities, just where oh where do they get these ideas from?

The animation/CGI is as you would expect, first rate and beautifully choreographed. The singing, well, if you hate musicals this is unlikely to persuade you otherwise. Following the usual break into a song routine, somehow it works well here. Production values and costumes are where much of the money has been spent, all up on the screen.

Unless you have been living under a rock watching UFC 24×7, you will know how the story ends. However, completed with style, love and attention to detail this is a perfect example of how such re-invention can make most people happy.


A perfect film for this genre and rated accordingly but if you are truly “musicalphobic”, this is unlikely to convert you

However, for everyone else and those willing to stow the cynicism for two hours, this is magical and surprisingly touching.

Highly recommended