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Beauty and The Beast: Romantic tale dazzles again

By Damon Smith

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

Before Gaston can find out, Belle trades places with her inventor father Maurice (Kevin Kline) as eternal prisoner of an accursed Beast (Dan Stevens) in his crumbling stronghold.

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), and 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". Distinguished by stunning production design, this Beauty And The Beast doesn't quite scale the dizzy heights of its animated predecessor, but comes delightfully close.

Four stars

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