The latest live action remake to roll off the Disney conveyor belt, Bill Condon's Beauty and the Beast actually raises the bar and should put a smile on the face of even the sternest cynic.
Belle (Emma Watson) is a young girl living in a provincial French town who dreams of something greater; surrounded by simple countryfolk and the crooning of insufferable ladies man Gaston (Luke Evans) and his lapdog LeFou (Josh Gad), Belle finds her small world turned upside down when her father (Kevin Kline) is taken captive by a vicious beast (Dan Stevens), who along with his castle and worldly possessions, was cursed by an enchantress many years before.
After exchanging her life for that of her father, Belle learns to live with the Beast and his menagerie of chatty household items, which include a candelabra called Lumiere (Ewan McGregor), a clock named Cogsworth (Ian McKellan) and a teapot called Mrs Potts (Emma Thompson).
It's the tale as old as time that you remember so fondly - except there are a couple of wrinkles here and there where Condon's film deviates from the cherished original; this isn't a shot-for-shot, line-for-line remake as many have assumed. I don't think I'll spoil them here; just know that a couple of characters are afforded extra traits that further flesh them out, as well as a couple of narrative beats that (in my opinion) actually give the film a better flow across the three acts.
Just know that this is both a loyal remake that stays true to the spirit of the original whilst also offering a sprinkle of new stuff; like I said, Condon's film actually ties everything together better in a couple of areas. There are new angles to old characters as well as new songs that sit alongside old ones, like 'Evermore', 'How Does A Moment' and 'Days in the Sun', which are each great in their own way and meld brilliantly with the classic tunes you already know.
Speaking of which - how good is the score to this film? I guarantee even the most ardent cynic will be tapping their foot and slapping their knees to 'Gaston', which Evans and Gad knock out of the park by the way. The choreography and production across this number, 'Belle' and 'Beauty and the Beast' is superb. I felt that 'Be Our Guest' went a little overboard on the CGI in an attempt to mimic the animated version but that's only a mild quibble. All things considered, this film doesn't falter when it comes to the music.
The supporting cast are great too; Thompson, McKellan and particularly McGregor shine in their respective roles, the latter conveying oodles of suave French charm as Lumiere. It does feel like a weird decision to display their human form on all the posters though; it does sort of lessen the reveal at the end of the movie.
The MVP in my book is undoubtedly Evans as Gaston; he's an absolute hoot as the charming and slimy schoolyard bully who all the simple village girls drool over. What Evans lacks in biceps he almost certainly makes up for in pure unbridled charisma.
All told, 2017's Beauty and the Beast is easily my favourite of Disney's recent batch of live action remakes. Whilst Maleficent was a bust and Cinderella was forgettable, Beauty and the Beast stands shoulder to shoulder with The Jungle Book as a reimagining that honours the original whilst bringing fresh ingredients to the table. The whole cast shines and the tunes are wonderful - what more could you want?
The Verdict: 9/10
An enchanting experience from start to finish, Condon's remake of Beauty and the Beast hits all the right notes along the route to success. Watson, Evans, McGregor - the list of greatness stretches on and on. Diehard Disney fans and families rejoice, this one is for you.
Beauty and the Beast is in cinemas across Australia now