Beauty and the Beast is a tale as old as time that deserves its elegant contemporary re-telling.
Director, Bill Condon invites his guests on a lavish nostalgia trip that doubles as a poignant call to arms for all outcasts.
I grew up idolising Belle and looking forward to rainy days watching Disney’s 1991 feature animation on repeat, cowering from the fearsome wolves, recoiling from Gaston and rooting for Belle and her father. So I, like many, was certain the reboot wouldn’t capture the magic of the original.
Happily, I was very, very wrong.
Condon’s film follows the original narrative almost line-by-line; Belle is the heroine of her provincial town, where the men are as ominously ferocious as the wolves who hide in the surrounding woods.
But don’t let that fool you into thinking you’re watching a two dimensional children’s film.
The old tale benefits from an injection of reality thanks to its live action format which manifests in moments of charming family-friendly comedy and literally brings the magic to life – with the help of the enchanting ensemble cast of Stanley Tucci, Ewan McGregor and Emma Thompson.
Each character benefits from good development which gives the reboot the light and shade that could never be afforded to a Disney animation. Dan Stevens, as the Beast, even gets his own short origin story – no spoilers.
Emma Watson is delightful from start to flourishing finish. She was undoubtedly the perfect choice to depict the intellect and bravery of Belle – an activist and bookworm herself – with an inoffensively pretty vocal.
Her romance with the Beast, discounting the obvious case of Stockholm Syndrome, was convincing. It offers another refreshing anti-romance which centres around companionship and the restorative power of love.
Any woodenness – an occasional but endearing Watson trademark – simply served to sweetly illustrate the disconnect between her character and the villagers.
The incidental portrayal of a strong female titular role and two gay supporting characters, amid the hoards of bigoted provincial townspeople, is also profoundly important in its treatment: That is to say, it doesn’t feel like Disney have tried to fill a gender or LGBT quota.
Moreover, Beauty and The Beast is a beautiful homage to books and the transcendent power of story-telling. (FYI, the Palace library looks like heaven on Earth.)
Watching this film is comparable to diving into an old copy of your favourite novel.
So, it’s fitting that a story that had been told for generations should be done justice. Thankfully, this reboot achieved the unexpected with the help of a little movie magic, a modern makeover and a strident step away from the diktats of yesteryear.
A special mention must go to the film’s aesthetic, drenched in warmth and joy and gold – like a less threatening Kremlin – and the original score which is packed full of charming tunes.
You can watch the trailer for Beauty and The Beast below:
This is a film that champions outcasts. This is a film your daughters should see. It praises human oddness and defiance in the face of norms; it is a joy to see Disney continue to move into modernity.
Beauty and The Beast, revamped, is the moralising tale we all need right now and it is in cinemas nationwide today for your delectation.