PG – 129mins – 2017 – 3D
A READY-FURNISHED CLASSIC
Disney continue their recent trend of mining past animated hits for future live action gold (as I write it is currently the highest grossing film of 2017) with this fifth conversion – following Alice in Wonderland, Maleficent, Cinderella and The Jungle Book (which I reviewed HERE) – of one of their greatest ‘toons as old as time into 3 living, breathing, singing and dancing dimensions.
I could waffle on for paragraphs about the dubious sincerity of such an in-(Mouse) house remake; about how damaging and disrespectful making a modern “definitive” version is to the legacy of the 1991 Oscar-winning original, but for all my bleating Beauty and the Beast 2017 is a respectable upgrade. Bill Condon’s lavish 3D musical blockbuster extends and expands upon what we have seen before with state of the art sets, designs, costumes and eye-popping special effects.
The identical fairy tale-inspired plot sees “French” farm-girl Belle (Emma The Colony Watson) bored of her provincial life with her aging artist pa, Maurice (Kevin Kline) in the village of Villeneuve. Bookish, independent and with a song in her heart, Belle longs for more, which is exactly what she gets when her father is imprisoned in a cursed castle in the forest. Heroically taking his place, Belle finds herself the reluctant houseguest to a mysterious and foul-tempered Beast (Dan Stevens).
With only his magically-anthropomorphised furnishings to keep her spirits aloft, Belle learns to admire rather than fear the man beneath her captor’s grizzly exterior. But can he win her heart in time to break the spell which has befallen him, or will jealous, narcissistic alpha-male Gaston (Luke The Girl on the Train Evans) storm the castle with his misguided mob and scupper any chance for a happily ever after?
Whether necessary or not, Beauty and the Beast 2.0 is sumptuous and grandiose entertainment which will thrill all ages. I wasn’t initially certain whether Emma Watson was too stern for the role of traditionally soft-featured Belle, but her poise and integrity won me over. Meanwhile, Ewan McGregor is near-unrecognisable as French-lilted candelabra Lumière and Frozen breakout star Josh “Olaf” Gad brings flamboyant charm to Gaston’s long-suffering comic relief sidekick, LeFou.
Strictly more a makeover than a reimagining (composer Alan Menken’s classic songbook is left well alone; Celine Dion returns to the soundtrack; just look at the remarkable amount of effort the designers have gone to to perfectly recreate Belle’s iconic yellow gown), nevertheless you’ll still have a ball with this Beauty-ful box-office dominating Beast.
CR@B’s Claw Score: