Film Review: Beauty and the Beast

A remake of the 1991 animated Disney musical from director Bill Condon, this ‘live action’ version of Beauty and the Beast, also from Disney, should prove pleasing for fans of the original and/or star Emma Watson, yet it all feels a bit busy, prissy and over-the-top. But devotees of this sort of thing wouldn’t have it any other way.

In an FX-ed French village in some fantasy past we meet Belle (Watson), whose bookishness makes her a curiosity to all but her Dad Maurice (Kevin Kline) and nefarious suitor Gaston (Luke Evans enjoying himself), who plans to force Belle into marriage for reasons that don’t entirely make sense. When Maurice trespasses in the grounds of a castle belonging to a cursed prince-cum-Beast (the heavily made-up and CG-ed Dan Stevens), Belle becomes his prisoner instead, and all the talking furniture and crockery in the place hope she might break the spell by falling in love with him regardless of his Beastliness.

Watson and Stevens are nice here (even if both aren’t up to the singing), and a gaggle of name players have fun in voice roles, including Ewan McGregor as candelabra Lumière, Ian McKellen as clock Cogsworth and Emma Thompson as teapot Mrs. Potts, who performs the best-known tune. However, the villainous Evans steals it, and Josh Gad is funny as his increasingly reluctant sidekick LeFou, the character who’s the centre of this film’s ‘controversy’ because, of course, he’s supposedly gay.

Conservatives are freaking out over this ‘daring’ decision, which onscreen amounts to almost nothing, and they’re all looking past the other elements that make this hoary old story so dubious.

Don’t forget that this is the tale of a young woman who swoons over a bipedal buffalo, despite him locking up her and her father, scaring the hell out of her and abusing her psychologically. But no, we’ll ignore that and concentrate upon the three seconds that somehow make LeFou gay, okay, kids?

Rated PG. Beauty and the Beast is in cinemas now.

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