Beauty And The Beast, released nationwide tomorrow (Friday), cert PG, ****
La Belle et la Bête first came to attention in 1740, but the French tale is believed to have been around for centuries.
Better known as Beauty and the Beast, the story is much loved and has been brought to the silver screen, TV and stage many time over the years.
The 1991 Disney version is perhaps the most famous and was the first animation to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. A triumph of song and music, it won Oscars for Best Score and Best Song.
So there was trepidation when it was announced Disney was bringing the film back to the big screen, this time as a live-action musical.
Emma Watson steps into the role of Belle, a girl who does not quite fit into her village. She is a voracious reader and dreams of bigger things than a quiet, provincial life. She lives with her father, Maurice (Kevin Kline), an eccentric clock maker.
Belle is the most beautiful girl in the village and has attracted the eye of Gaston (Luke Evans), a gregarious, egotistical soldier, but she has no intentions of reciprocating his feelings.
Most of us know the story of how Belle falls into the Beast’s hands, or should I say paws. Maurice sets out by horse to go to the market and promises to bring back a rose for Belle. Instead, he picks one from a great walled garden, only to find himself imprisoned for thievery by a giant horned beast (Dan Stevens).
Belle uses of her courage to trade places with her father and soon learns there is much more to Beast’s story.
A curse by an enchantress (Hattie Morahan) turned this once-handsome prince into Beast and cursed his staff as talking, walking objects.
His butler Cogsworth (Ian McKellan) is a clock, his valet Lumière (Ewan McGregor) a candelabra, Maestro Cadenza (Stanley Tucci) is a harpsichord, Madame Garderobe (Audra MacDonald) a wardrobe and the head of the kitchen Mrs Potts (Emma Thompson) is now a teapot and her young son Chip (Nathan Mack) is a teacup.
The curse can only be broken when Beast finds true love, which must be returned. He must find love before the final petal falls from a mystical rose. If he does not he will be a beast forever.
Cogsworth and Co see Belle as their last chance to return to human form and conspire to bring the her and the Beast together
We all know the end, but it is 2017 so maybe things have changed?
Beauty by name, this film is visually gorgeous. Disney has gone to great lengths to recreate the beautiful visuals of the animation with added layer of lavishness and luxury. It is colourful and decadent and early on, it is easy to forget you are watching a film.
As you find yourself caught up in Belle’s world, songs burst forth. Some are carbon copies of the 1991 cartoon, others have been added to add depths to the characters. The Beast is given his own wonderful tune, Evermore.
Delightfully acted, the A-list cast bring life to the animated characters. Watson is perfect as the wide-eyed yet defiant Bella and Stevens is great as Beast, thanks to CGI that capture’s his human expressions. Evans has never been better, his Gaston is uproarious.
It is not perfect, Disney deserves praise for introducing its first gay character, Le Fou (Josh Gad), but his role is uncertain and his later same sex scene is a blink-and-you-will-miss-it.
Be wary of bringing littles ones, there are scary wolves and violence.
This is a joy, sumptuously beautiful, the songs are great and the world created is hard to leave when it film ends.
It brings out the tears, it brings out the smiles and it is so close to being the perfect adaptation of Beauty and the Beast.