Belfast Telegraph

Beauty and the Beast: Sumptuous update of an old classic

 

By Damon Smith

Strong-willed bookworm Belle (Emma Watson) rebuffs the advances of preening Gaston (Luke Evans), who wonders how he'll know when he's in love.

Before Gaston can find out, Belle trades places with her inventor father Maurice (Kevin Kline), the prisoner of the Beast (Dan Stevens).

The gloom of incarceration is lifted by the kindness of enchanted servants including tightly wound clock Cogsworth (Sir Ian McKellen), flirtatious candlestick Lumiere (Ewan McGregor), clinking teapot Mrs Potts (Emma Thompson) and her teacup son, Chip (Nathan Mack).

As petals of an enchanted rose fall, Belle glimpses beneath the fur of her tormented host and acknowledges that "there may be something there that wasn't there before".

This is a ravishing live-action remake of the 1991 animation, bolstered by three sparkling new ballads from composer Alan Menken and lyricist Tim Rice.

Watson is a spirited heroine and is blessed with a sweet singing voice, and Stevens teases out the humanity of his fallen prince.

Bill Condon's picture doesn't scale the dizzy heights of its predecessor, but comes close.

Four stars

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