Beauty And The Beast: "Tale As Old As Time"

Director: Bill Condon
Writer:    Stephen Chbosky
                Evan Spiliotopoulos
Starring: Emma Watson
                Dan Stevens
                Luke Evans
                Josh Gad
                Kevin Kline
                Ewan McGregor
                Stanley Tucci
                Gugu Mbatha-Raw
                Ian McKellen
                Emma Thompson
                Nathan Mack
Rating:    *****

Release Date: Out Now 

I am quite happy to own up to the fact that I have been extremely cynical and dubious towards this live action remake of a Disney classic. I am also even happier to admit that after watching it last night, I had absolutely no reason to worry about this brand new treatment. It is sure to rake in more money than any previous remake purely because it is the epitome of magic.

Beauty and the Beast focuses on so many issues that are extremely prevalent in today's climate, and it handles them with warmth, affection and bravery. It focuses on a heroine who saves the day, isn't scared to be different and is bold enough to stand up for what she believes in. It has also broken records by featuring the first interracial kiss in a live action Disney film, and it features the first homosexual character in a Disney film; though that one is less obvious, and completely undeserving of the pathetic world wild criticism.

I am sure you already know the story, after all, it is a tale as old as time, but here's a recap. Emma Watson plays Belle, an outsider in her village, a book smart girl who dreams of adventure in the great, wide somewhere. She lives with her father, Maurice (Kline), and was raised by him after her mother passed away. She does all she can to read books and educate herself, and won;t let her judgemental neighbours hold her back. However, her life gets turned upside down when her father goes missing, and she must head out of her provincial town to save him.
It is here she meets her father's captor, the Beast (Stevens). He was once a selfish and narcissistic Prince, who was cursed by an enchantress until he can fall in love and be loved back, whilst looking like a water buffalo. The staff who also resided in the castle are cursed to become pieces of household furniture, and are forgotten by the townspeople. Throw in some singing and dancing, an arrogant villain and his foolish sidekick, and a yellow dress, and Beauty and the Beast is born.

Bill Condon, who has bravely taken the reigns for this film, does a beautiful job at remaining faithful to the original source material, whilst weaving in even more detail, depth and visual treats than ever before. The same songs that we all know and love have remained in the film, with three brand new songs, written by Alan Menken again, added into the mix. The Beast's 'Evermore' being my personal favourite. It comes at a poignant moment, after the Beast sets Belle free, and it gives the scene more emotion and gravitas. Condon is brilliant at directing films featuring a strong female lead, and this truly shows here.

Someone else who has clearly had a hand in Belle's character development is Emma Watson herself. She has turned out to be an inspired choice for Belle, despite her vocals still being weaker than I would have liked. Whilst physically she truly has transformed into the beauty, her acting and motives behind the way Belle acts are clearly thought through, and similar to the Watson we see in the press. She wants to empower young girls, make a better life for herself and to her, and she is aways looking out for other's interests. Her wooden and well spoken manner could easily have held her performance back, but in fact fro Belle, it works gorgeously.

As the Beast, Dan Stevens also manages to fully embody the character, despite how physically different they are. There is a warmth and charming clumsiness about him, and he is quickly lovable and so endearing throughout. His personality transformation from stroppy toddler, to charming man is so much fun to watch and oddly wonderful. You completely understand how Belle falls in love with him, and truly see the man underneath the fur, rather than a hideous monster. Watson and Stevens balance each other perfectly, and their blossoming love is stunning to watch unfold. 

Beauty and the Beast shows little girls and boys that it is possible to retain you personal quirks and are capable of achieving whatever you sidh without giving up your morals or beliefs. It truly is a story about dreams coming true, and that is clear from beginning to end. Belle becomes the perfect role model fr anyone that watches, because she shines despite people forever trying to put her light out. This is a message that Condon and Watson wanted to come across, and they were successful in their own wishes.

Of course in amongst the strong messages and heartfelt emotions, there are big fantastic music numbers to enjoy. Be Our Guest, lead by McGregor's flirtatious Lumiere is as colourful and wondrous as any Disney fan could've hoped for. However, the standout musical moment comes from villains Gaston and Lefou, deliciously evil Luke Evans and misunderstood Josh Gad. Their pub based number, 'Gaston' brings me back to Oliver's 'Oom Pah Pah', whilst again remaining faithful to the original movie, and Alan Menken's stunning score. Menken's music is of course outstanding, and this new film does it justice, twice over.

The voice cast, including McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Ian McKellen and Emma Thompson, are a who's who of outstanding actors, and they bring their knowledge, experience and abilities to life with each of their characters. They bounce off one another and provide much light release and comfort throughout. Though I was once unsure of the way they had been designed, after seeing them in real life, I fell in love like I was watching the 1991 movie again. Audra McDonald's narcoleptic, opera singing wardrobe, was a particular highlight for me. That woman can SING!

I really struggled to find a fault with this film, and even the slight blips, like Ewan Mcgregor's shaky french accent, to Watson's singing voice just added to the character and charm of the movie. Beauty and the Beast made me laugh, cry and I even wanted to applaud after many of the music numbers. If I had to choose my favourite live action Disney film, this would be it. 

Beauty and the Beast - Trailer