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|Beauty and the Beast|
dir Bill Condon
prd David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman
scr Stephen Chbosky, Evan Spiliotopoulos
with Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Audra McDonald, Hattie Morahan
release UK/US 17.Mar.17
17/UK Disney 2h09
Tale as old as time: Stevens and Watson
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
There wasn't any need for Disney to remake the 1991 animated classic, especially since this is almost as animated as that one was. But it's now rendered digitally to look like live-action with some real actors. And director Bill Condon adds hints of authenticity that add a steely undercurrent to the lovely musical romantic-comedy fairy tale.
In a French village, Belle (Watson) is seen as an oddball because she loves to read and expresses her thoughts. Her artistic father Maurice (Kline) dotes on her, and carousing soldier Gaston (Evans) pursues her, because she's the only girl who eludes him. Then Belle and Maurice encounter a hidden castle that's under a wintry curse. Belle ends up captive to the hot-tempered beastly master (Stevens), while his transmogrified servants (McGregor's candlestand, McKellen's clock, Thompson's teapot, Tucci's harpsichord, Mbatha-Raw's feather duster) concoct a plan to get them to fall in love and break the spell.
The live-action format adds the tone of a stage musical, as actors sing more than talk as they dance around stylised sets in perhaps too-digitised landscapes. Actors also supply more detail with subtle asides, cheeky glances and darker emotions. All of this gives weight to Alan Menken and Howard Ashman's iconic songs, plus three new ones by Menken and Tim Rice. Each musical number is terrific, so it's difficult to pick a highlight between the raucous Gaston, the extravagant Be Our Guest, the moody Evermore and of course the swoony title track.
With terrific energy, Watson perhaps looks too perfect, but underscores Belle's interaction with fierce intelligence and integrity. Stevens is mostly obscured by (sometimes uncanny) digital fur, but reveals the emotional pain under the beast's bluster. His transformation into a romantic lead may feel rather sudden, but it's fun to watch. Evans and Gad (as his faithful sidekick LeFou) have terrific chemistry, offering both comic relief and impulsive villainy. And Kline gives a lovely turn as a nice man with rather a lot of weight on his shoulders.
The starry voice cast add enjoyable touches, although McGregor's cod-French accent and Thompson's Van Dyke-ish Cockney are rather bizarre. Even better are the pungent themes that emerge, like a gently woven female empowerment through-line or the paranoid rush to attack a perceived threat while ignoring the facts. Most viewers will absorb these things while they're caught up in the story's elegantly simple arc, an engaging romantic fantasy that goes right where you know it will. Even cynics will feel their hearts skip a beat.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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Beauty and the Beast
dir Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
scr Linda Woolverton
voices Paige O'Hara, Robby Benson, Richard White, Jesse Corti, Rex Everhart, Jerry Orbach, David Ogden Stiers, Angela Lansbury
release US 13.Nov.91, UK 9.Oct.92
91/US Disney 1h24
Song as old as rhyme: Beauty and Beast
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Shadows' original review, from the Jan-Feb 1992 issue (Vol 8 No 1):|
Once again, Disney has adapted a classic tale into a feature-length animated film. Beauty and the Beast is bound to be a favorite for years to come. The story is wonderful, the songs charming, the characters delightful. OK, the animation isn't always great; some scenes are oddly flat, but there are sequences that dazzle, especially where the animators put computers to work. The ballroom will make you gasp.
The fairy tale story is simple: A lovely young French girl named Belle, bored with her life, becomes prisoner in the castle of a prince who, because of a curse, has been transformed into a menacing beast who can't control his considerable temper. To break the curse he must find someone he can love who will love him in return. Meanwhile, handsome slimeball Gaston from town is trying to woo Belle. You know how it ends (even though the filmmakers have a few surprises up their sleeves).
Beauty features terrific music by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, who won an Oscar for The Little Mermaid. It's the kind of animated classic that adults won't feel silly watching. (In fact, young children might be terrified by its intense sequences.) See it!
© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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