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