Beauty and the Beast review: tale as old as time a magical experience with gusto

Dan Stevens as Beast and Emma Watson as Belle.
Dan Stevens as Beast and Emma Watson as Belle.

FORMER Harry Potter star Emma Watson is the latest actor to take up a few vocal lessons for a musical as the odd but aesthetically pleasing Beauty to Dan Stevens’ Beast.

Living in a small, secluded French village, Belle (Emma Watson) buries her face in books and dreams of a bigger world outside of her community.

Meanwhile, pompous Gaston (Luke Evans) tries to woo her into a relationship and domestic life, despite her making it blatantly clear she is not interested.

When Belle’s father Maurice (Kevin Kline) comes across a dark castle in the middle of the woods, he is locked up by its inhabitant, Beast (Dan Stevens), a former Prince who was cursed by an old, vagrant witch.

Belle trades herself as prisoner in exchange for her father’s freedom and lives with the Beast and his collection of household items that can talk and sing – and who try to set the two up to break the spell.

Except for a few additional scenes and songs (Belle gets a bit more backstory via a magical book with transportation abilities), Beauty and the Beast is fairly close to the Disney animated film this version is modelled on.

Despite the familiarity and shoehorned additions, director Bill Condon delivers a magical experience with gusto.

The cast is enjoyable, particularly those voicing the animated characters, but Watson battles to register – her looks are appropriate for the role but her lack of on-screen presence and emotional depth indicate there could have been someone else better suited.

LeFou (Josh Gad), the highly publicised openly gay sidekick to Gaston, is the weakest aspect of the film, with such subtle and fleeting moments of homosexuality that anyone who blinks will surely miss.THE ESSENTIALS

Beauty and the Beast (PG)

Directed by: Bill Condon

Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans

Three and a half stars

Review by Julian Wright

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