Following on from the success of their live action remakes of Cinderella and The Jungle Book, Disney have now adapted their gorgeous animated classic Beauty And The Beast, with Emma Watson taking the role of bookworm Belle alongside Dan Stevens as the Beast.
While keeping all the elements you remember from the 1991 adventure (the ‘Be Our Guest’ dinner table scene is here a jaw-dropping, CGI treat), this new version adds more musical numbers and extra scenes, beginning with a prologue explaining just how Stevens’ handsome (but rather foppish-looking) prince was cursed to become a hairy beast, his castle slipping from the memories of the villagers below, and his servants turned into pieces of furniture.
It is this forgotten castle that Belle’s inventor dad (Kline) stumbles across, but when he takes a white rose from the garden as a gift for his daughter, the Beast imprisons him for stealing. Belle agrees to take his place, and so begins an uneasy relationship between headstrong girl and grumpy furry man that the castle’s other inhabitants (Ian McKellen voicing Cogsworth the clock, Ewan McGregor as Lumiere the candelabra, Emma Thompson as teapot Mrs Potts) hope will develop into love, thus breaking the curse they are all under.
While Watson feels rather awkward at the movie’s start, especially during the ‘Belle’ song as she skips through her ‘poor provincial town’, she settles more comfortably into the role by the time she reaches the castle and stands up to Stevens’ gruff beast. The former Downton Abbey actor is at his best as the beast, complete with horns and suitably deep, beastly voice – as with the animated version, he’s far more attractive with a pelt than as the blond, floppy haired and effeminate prince we see when the curse is lifted – but it’s another man altogether who steals every scene he is in.
That man is Luke Evans, utterly superb as the vain Gaston, complete with smooth-as-silk singing voice, killer dance moves and hilarious sidekick LeFou (Josh Gad, best known to younger viewers as the voice of Olaf in Frozen). He’s so much fun – whether booming out the tune ‘Gaston’, leading an angry mob or battling the beast on the castle ramparts – you almost wish the movie’s title was Beauty And Gaston.
Featuring probably the most feminist of Disney’s princesses, the first (and second) interracial kisses in a Disney movie and a blink and you’ll miss it gay moment, too, this is a welcome 21st century twist on a classic. The animated version may have just a little more magic and warmth, but this is nonetheless a gorgeous-looking, sumptuous movie, and one that will hopefully make Luke Evans a very big star.
Is Beauty And The Beast (2017) suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
Very young children may find the woman who puts the curse on the prince a little scary. They may also be frightened by the Beast when they first see him.
Belle is surrounded by wolves and the Beast saves her, but it is quite dark and intense for young (under 7) viewers.
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