Blending CGI razzle-dazzle with Broadway pizzazz, Dreamgirls director Bill Condon has given Disney’s beloved 1991 animated movie Beauty and the Beast a glossy live-action remake.
His new movie, fans will be happy to know, sticks very closely to its cartoon predecessor, sometimes reproducing the original’s scenes shot for shot. Which means the setting is again a fairytale version of 17th-century France, where Emma Watson’s plucky heroine Belle stands out from her provincial village thanks to her bookish curiosity and independence of mind.
It’s no wonder, then, that she has no time for her swaggering suitor Gaston (Luke Evans), a big-headed boor who is so pleased with himself he barely needs the cheerleading of his adoring flunkey LeFou (Josh Gad). And it’s no wonder, either, that when her widowed father (Kevin Kline) falls foul of Dan Stevens’ fearsome Beast she should offer to take his place as a prisoner in his remote castle.
Her captor is, of course, really a prince, transformed into the Beast after being, well, beastly to an enchantress disguised as a hag. His retinue have fallen victim to the spell, too, and now appear as household objects such as a clock (Ian McKellen’s Cogsworth), a candlestick (Ewan McGregor’s Lumiere) and a teapot (Emma Thompson’s Mrs Potts). And they will stay that way unless their selfish master learns to truly love another, and be loved in return. Can Belle effect this change?
Condon delivers this tale with unblushing gusto, ramping up the spectacle at every opportunity and turning the big musical numbers into routines worthy of Busby Berkeley. At times, the film’s flamboyance gets too much. This Beauty and the Beast is so showy, so overblown, that watching certain scenes becomes exhausting. Yet somehow the performances don’t get swamped. Watson, giving Belle more than a touch of Hogwart’s bookworm Hermione, pulls off the feat of being both feisty and winsome; Stevens’ Beast is suitably gruff; and Evans’ Gaston makes a hilariously hissable cad.
Certificate PG. Runtime 129 mins. Director Bill Condon
Get the What to Watch Newsletter
The latest updates, reviews and unmissable series to watch and more!
A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.