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Bête fair: Emma Watson stars in classy Beauty and the Beast

17 March, 2017 — By Dan Carrier

Dan Stevens and Emma Watson in Beauty and the Beast

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
Directed by Bill Condon
Certificate PG
☆☆☆

TAKING their blockbuster 1990s cartoon and turning it into a high-spec live action family flick, this is a straight-up fairytale with a scattering of jokes for the accompanying adults.

The Beast (Dan Stevens) is a playboy French aristo whose home is like Versailles, and with a similar let-them-eat-cake attitude to the grubby peasants living in hovels outside his grandiose grounds.

When sorceress Agathe (Hattie Morahan) shows up on his doorstep seeking shelter, his get-out-of-here attitude prompts her into issuing a curse that turns him into a seven-foot tall hairy and horned grinch, with his servants turned into talking furniture.

Meanwhile, in a nearby village, young Belle (Emma Watson) is the local head-turner, whose love of books marks her out as an eccentric. She spends her days caring for her father (Kevin Kline), a mechanical toy maker. Her hand in marriage is sought by village hunk Gaston (played with relish by Luke Evans), and he will stop at nothing to win her heart.

One day, Maurice is captured by the Beast and so Belle sets out to rescue him – and instead becomes his prisoner.

Can the beauty and the beast find some common ground and break the curse, before Gaston and his numbskull followers burn his castle down?

There is plenty to admire. It looks fantastic, drawing on some great sets and special effects, and the story is told with gusto. Minor characters such as Lumiere, the talking candlestick, Mrs Potts, the tea pot, and Cogsworth, the clock, are superb and shove their human counterparts into the shade somewhat – voiced by Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson and Ian McKellen, they provide the required charm.

But sadly Watson’s voice and the songs she is given don’t lead to much foot-tapping. There will be no refrain you’ll find yourself whistling as you leave the theatre, an important downside when much of the fun is halted by crusty villagers breaking into song.

However, for the age group this is aimed at, it is a classy, well-intentioned take on a favourite tale, and can be stored alongside Kenneth Branagh’s excellent Cinderella (2015).

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