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Saturday 22 July 2017

Beauty And The Beast: Lavish retelling of the tale as old as time

Emma Watson and Dan Stevens star in Beauty And The Beast
Emma Watson and Dan Stevens star in Beauty And The Beast

Disney's classic Beauty And The Beast returns with a star-studded line-up that includes Emma Watson and Downton Abbey actor Dan Stevens.

Watson, 26, plays Belle and Stevens, 34, is the prince transformed into a beast in the hotly-anticipated live-action remake.

But does the rest of the film impress as much as the stellar cast?

:: The Press Association's film and DVD editor Damon Smith gives his view on the upcoming film:

If it's not Baroque, don't fix it.

Those immortal words, uttered in jest by Cogsworth the talking clock in the 1991 animated Beauty And The Beast during a guided tour of his master's castle, are largely heeded by director Bill Condon for this ravishing live-action remake.

The charm, sweetness, heart-tugging romance, infectious songs and rumbustious humour of the original - Disney's finest hand-drawn animation - have been lovingly polished by screenwriters Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos.

A few favourite moments, which work beautifully in animated form but might seem outlandish in the flesh, have been lost in translation including Gaston's virtuoso egg juggling and Belle's serenade to a flock of hungry sheep.

Verses of the Oscar-winning songbook composed by Alan Menken with lyrics by Howard Ashman have been nipped and tucked, then heightened with lush orchestration.

Three sparkling new ballads, courtesy of Menken and lyricist Tim Rice, sit handsomely in this exalted musical company including a soaring lament of longing for the Beast entitled Evermore.

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

"You'll feel nauseous!" retorts manservant Le Fou (Josh Gad).

Before Gaston succumbs to queasiness, Belle trades places with her inventor father Maurice (Kevin Kline) as eternal prisoner of the 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.

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

Both cede the limelight to the twin comic tornados of Evans and Gad, who energise their homoerotic bromance and bring the tavern down with the lyrically wicked sing-along, Gaston.

Lumiere's eye-popping Busby Berkeley-esque Be Our Guest is still a showstopper, augmented with shimmering digital effects, and the title song performed by Thompson brings a lump to the throat.

Not once but twice upon a time, Condon's film promises and delivers a deliriously happy ever after.

:: Beauty And The Beast is released in cinemas on March 17.

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