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Beauty And The Beast  : A Musical & Visual Feast
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Friday, March 17, 2017
Animation Film
Bill Condon
Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Kevin Kline, Luke Evans

It’s difficult to bring newness into what essentially rests onnostalgia but Walt Disney pulls it off with a spectacularly updated version of the old fairytale.

 

The freshness comes from Emma Watson who has stepped out of her Hogwarts uniform to emerge as beautiful Isabelle, a strong, fearless and individualistic farm girl who can sing as clear as temple bells. Captain Gastonwho’s cast like self-admiring Reggie Mantle of Archie comics, says “gorgeous” when he’s looking into the mirror. He’s dashing and ready for a romp with a willing widow or a young maiden. But for marriage he wants only Belle, the local beauty who devours books and trills about looking at life beyond this small provincial town.

 

Belle adores Maurice, her warm and creative father eternally tinkering in his workshop. She knows instinctively what he needs.All she asks for when he goes off on his horse to the market is to return safely with a rose for her.

 

Everybody’s familiar with the story of the Beast who lives in seclusion in his old decaying castle and how he takes Maurice as his captive for ‘stealing’ a rose from his garden. But director Bill Condon gives a little twist to why the Prince has become a Beast. He was an arrogant, self-serving Prince it seems, and the enchantress who turned him thus has a plan up her sleeve to bring out the kind and the good in him.

 

Which happens slowly but sure-footedly as Beauty trades places with her father. It happens with the Prince’s loyal staffers who’ve turned into talking tea cups, a wardrobe, clock and candelabra, winning her over with a lot of fun. It happens as the Beast falls in love like an unsure suitor. And it happens when Beauty sees a kind and well-read person with melting blue eyes hiding inside the beast.

 

The music by Alan Menken mixes familiar tunes from the old animation film with a few updated ones and all of them combine to make a grand orchestrated symphony. Although the screenplay simply ticks off all the right boxes, the musical succeeds in making you fall in love with all the characters; even with conceited Gaston and his gay sidekick Le Fou which incidentally, is another nod to contemporary times.

 

Whether you yearn for a glimpse of an old childhood tale or you want something new, Bill Condon satisfies both desires.

 

But it’s the perfect casting that elevates it to a Broadway-style costume drama. Emma Watson embodies fragility and fierce individuality with natural ease. Dan Stevens conveys a range of emotions from beastly to bewitchingly loving. Kevin Kline as dad Maurice, Luke Evans as terrible Gaston and a spray of other talents keep it watchable, hummable and saleable.

 

For a 160-million dollar extravaganza that’s healthy family fare, Beauty And The Beast gets a 4* rating.

 

Reviewed by
Bharathi S Pradhan

Senior Journalist & Author
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