"Watson has truly come into her own here, and every intimate close-up reveals both her staggering beauty and emotional capability"Disney

In recent years, Disney has been churning out live-action remakes of beloved animated classics for little more than a quick buck. Burton’s Alice in Wonderland melted the eyes with its smeary computer-generated madness, Branagh’s Cinderella lacked charm and plot, and, while technically breath-taking, Favreau’s The Jungle Book used realism at the expense of loveable characters. While the latter made some attempt at using the Sherman brothers’ beloved songs, hesitance to make a show-stopping, unadulterated musical has left audiences scurrying back to the animated favourites. Bill Condon’s decision to reverse this has steered the studio back in the right direction, quite literally fleshing out the 1991 classic to bring richer substance to a two-dimensional world.

“In want of a better pun, it is simply unfork-gettable”

The original Beauty and the Beast was ground-breaking. Emerging from the abyss of ’80s Disney (need Oliver & Company be mentioned?), it impressed all, from wide-eyed children to the Academy, who nominated it for Best Picture. This 21st-century version is unlikely to be nominated for such an accolade, but while it may be premature to consider the 2018 awards, nods in the technical categories should be assured. Hand-drawn images could never achieve this level of visual brilliance, with the computer animation doing wonders in bringing its static furniture to life so intricately. It’s almost as though we can reach into the screen and shake their cogs, candlesticks, and spouts. It is worth paying the price of admission simply to experience the utterly spellbinding Be Our Guest sequence alone, which features cues to West Side Story, Cabaret, and others. In want of a better pun, it is simply unfork-gettable (expect improved humour in the film, another welcome addition).

All your favourite Alan Menken songs return, with additional lyrics from Sir Tim Rice, whose own talents make him a worthy successor to the post after the tragic loss of Howard Ashman. Replacing Paige O’Hara’s rather wooden voice performance, Emma Watson brings a charming youthfulness to Belle that, in her The Sound of Music moment atop a hill, cannot have left a dry eye in the house. Watson has truly come into her own here, and every intimate close-up reveals both her staggering beauty and emotional capability, made more impressive by the lack of human actors on set. Similarly heart-wrenching is the best of the three new songs, ‘Evermore’, which gives feeling to the Beast, whose backstory fills much of the additional 45 minutes of film. Dan Stevens’s deep tones add a welcome, spine-tingling melancholy moment to an otherwise joyous score.

The protagonists are simply the icing on the cake, supported by the crème-de-la-crème of British and American acting talent. The unique and gripping voices of Ian McKellen (Cogsworth) and Emma Thompson (Mrs. Potts),  and Ewan McGregor (Lumière), never fail to delight and amuse. This trio of trinkets fills the castle with life, and each brings originality to their beloved characters. The weakest link is Kevin Kline as Maurice, who never appears to quite fit in to the bigger picture. If at times the film seems to drag, it is his scenes that do so, although never more than a palate cleanser for another course of movie magic. There are plenty more delights in store, but don’t listen to me, go see it for yourself.

Shot by shot, one by one, this remake of the tale as old as time will shimmer, shine, and sparkle its way back into your heart. With greater depth of character and plot, it benefits from an enchanting cast and an effects department that create a superior cinematic treat to the original animation. There’s certainly something there that wasn’t there before

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