BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (2017)
Belle (Emma Watson) is a bright, beautiful young woman taken prisoner by a hideous beast (Dan Stevens) in his castle. Belle befriends the castle's enchanted staff: a china teapot (voice of Emma Thompson), a candelabra (voice of Ewan McGregor) and a mantel clock (Ian McKellen) and eventually learns to see beneath the Beast's exterior to discover the heart and soul of a prince.
Review by Louise Keller:
It's simply enchanting. A wonderful music score, dazzling magical effects, scrumptious humour and a great cast make this classic fairy tale a winner. Of course, the film is a different experience to the 1991animated version, whose music score was also penned by Alan Menken; comparisons are futile. What this spanking new, big budget extravaganza offers is a darker reality, complete with moody, gothic production design and Emma Watson perfectly cast as the romantic, well-read Belle, who believes that books make small corners of the world feel big. It may be a family film, but it does not play very young - either in tone or the running time, although the 129 minutes simply fly. A beastly hero, a magic spell, a spirited heroine and a castle filled with quirky characters in the guise of inanimate objects... The scene is set for an uplifting magic carpet ride into fantasy, propelled by music, whimsy and a promise of happily ever after.
After a spectacular opening ballroom scene in which opulence is clearly on display and an evil magic spell is cast on the Prince, we meet Belle (Watson), who is different from the other girls in the small French provincial village. 'The hardest to get is the most appealing', according to hilariously narcissistic Gaston (Luke Evans), who has no shortage of admirers, and whose pursuit of Belle, who wants more than a provincial life, is played for laughs. Evans sings exceedingly well. Josh Gad is fun as Gaston's sidekick LeFou but I'm not sure what all the fuss is about regarding Disney's alleged first gay character. The Idiot, LeFou surely is, as he fawns over Gaston, but if there is anything to offend, I missed it.
Musically, the film soars. The songs are melodic and hummable; the cast all sings beautifully. The coming alive of the Castle's key (animated) characters is charming with the oooh lala French candelabra Lumiere (voiced by Ewan McGregor), meticulous antique clock Cogsworth (Ian McKellen) and elegant china teapot Mrs Potts (Emma Thompson), who sings the film's title song. Watch for Kevin Kline as Belle's protective father.
Dan Stevens with a rich, booming voice as The Beast makes for an interesting portrayal. His Beast is a brooding fur-covered giant; a tormented man trapped within a hideous exterior and whose plight as each rose petal falls and brings him to eternal doom, makes him more and more despondent. The darkness of the character is reflected in the production design and offbeat world in which he lives. I almost expected Miss Havisham to peer her head around a dusty corner.
She may be reading Romeo and Juliet, but it is Shakespeare's quote 'Love looks with the mind, not the eyes' from A Midsummer Night's Dream that is featured, when The Beast's library becomes the pathway that leads to Belle's heart. The most moving scene involves Belle and the Beast, when he transports her to the place where she most wants to be. Director Bill Condon has included all the elements we expect and unsurprisingly, the scene when the three enchanted words 'I Love You' are uttered brings its own magic. The Beast's anticipated transformation takes place amid gold dust and rose petals.
Who said fairy tales are just for kids?
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BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (2017) (PG)
CAST: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline, Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci
PRODUCER: David Doberman, Todd Lieberman
DIRECTOR: Bill Condon
SCRIPT: Stephen Chbosky, Evan Spiliotopoulos
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tobias A. Schliessler
EDITOR: Virginia Katz
MUSIC: Alan Menken
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Sarah Greenwood
RUNNING TIME: 129 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: WDS
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 23, 2017