Decent remake starring Emma Watson and, about time too, Disney’s first gay character
Disney’s live-action remake of Beauty And The Beast doesn’t need to be dazzlingly original. As we’re told in the most famous song it borrows from the 1991 animated film, this is a “tale as old as time”. Instead, what Dreamgirls director Bill Condon delivers here is two hours of premium nostalgia, decorated with the odd modern flourish. Emma Watson, who reportedly quit La La Land for this film, is perfectly cast as Belle, a forward-thinking young woman who feels constrained by the “provincial life” of her 18th century French village.
When her father Maurice (Kevin Kline) steals a rose from a secret castle occupied by a hulking and reclusive ‘Beast’ (Dan Stevens), Belle selflessly volunteers to become his prisoner so Maurice can walk free. In what now feels like a fairytale version of Stockholm Syndrome, Belle sees beyond the Beast’s brutish exterior and begins to soften his temper. If she falls in love with him before the last petal drops from an enchanted rose, a cruel curse will be lifted and the Beast will transform back into the handsome prince he once was.
Most viewers will probably be anticipating the film’s plot developments and heartwarming finale, but Condon manages to inject some genuine threat into proceedings. Dumb hunk Gaston (The Hobbit’s Luke Evans) becomes surprisingly menacing when he realises Belle fancies the Beast instead, and gathers a gang of vigilantes to slay him. Though it’s been over-hyped, there’s a subtly revisionist moment where Gaston’s sidekick Le Fou (Frozen’s Josh Gad) is revealed as gay.
Condon’s film also benefits from some glorious CGI visuals, but its charm really lies in the voice casting of the Beast’s cursed servants. It’s a lot of fun hearing Emma Thompson fussing and fretting as a matriarchal teapot, Ian McKellen hamming it up as a pompous clock, and Ewan McGregor supplying a dodgy French accent as a scheming candelabra.
Beauty And The Beast is hardly a masterpiece, but it’s not faint praise to say it does its job nicely. Fans of the original won’t be disappointed and many others will leave with ‘Be Our Guest’ stuck in their heads.