Disney’s animated classic Beauty and the Beast passed me by as a young whippersnapper. Growing up in the glamorous suburbs of North Manchester where the only thing more ubiquitous than grotty tracksuits is the abuse of alcohol, cannabis and casual racism. Environments such as that don’t lend themselves to a lad acquiring a love for bright, lavish musicals with strong female heroines and aching romance.
As a result I was misguidedly left with a distaste for a film I only ever saw once and do not remember much of. So it was I went into a Friday night screening of the new live-action version of Beauty and the Beast with trepidation. Thankfully for fans of the film amongst you, I’m an idiot.
What a film! What a glorious, wonderful film! I do have a soft spot for a good musical and this was an absolute corker. From the moment Luke Evans and Josh Gad (ss Gaston and his besotted sidekick Le Fou) sashayed onto the screen I knew this film was going to be great. Maybe it’s because I’m seeing this film with a fresh pair of eyes, remembering so little of the 1991 animated version that I hadn’t seen for twenty years, but I thought this film was absolutely delightful.
Director Bill Condon bottles the forward thinking nature of that animated retelling. Its strong-willed, intelligent, determined heroine Belle (Emma Watson) and its flawed and cursed Prince (Dan Stevens) who she has to save and retains some of the film’s steampunk influenced aesthetic.
Nevertheless, it stretches things slightly further, bringing in a diverse cast and pushing things to resemble the Broadway stage musical rather than just simply going shot-for-shot with the film as the trailer suggests. The sets look fabulous and truly fantastical as you would expect, although there is times it lacks the physicality of last year’s The Jungle Book which probably still stands above this.
However, the much vaunted, homosexual element to the film – so decried by bleeding heart, social conservatives terrified they’re only one vaguely, arousing gay experience away from their sham marriages collapsing to wives or husbands they only have reluctant, boring sex with to produce, ugly bratty kids – is so underplayed that you’ll miss it should your IQ not be above a certain level or go to empty your bladder at the wrong time. It is there (and puts a smile on your face) but its hard to see what the fuss was even about, or why I’m wasting my time mentioning it.
It zips along at a fine pace too, with plenty of snappy dialogue and nice one-liners interspersed with stellar musical numbers. The brilliant ‘Gaston’ number led by Josh Gad and Dan Stevens’ performance of ‘Evermore’ – reminiscent of Les Mis – are high points.
Moreover, Emma Watson also made a tangible impact on the cinema screen. At times in the past I’ve found her to be meek and lacking any presence whatsoever. As Belle though, she hits her strides and is a match for the other players in the film. She was a charismatic, believably strong heroine.
Luke Evans, is undoubtedly the best thing in the whole film. Given license to chew the scenery like freshly cooked bacon on a Sunday morning. Evans is a superbly entertaining bastard from beginning to end and shares terrific chemistry with Josh Gad.
This may not be a masterpiece by any means, just falling short of the levels of The Jungle Book or Kenneth Branagh’s version of Cinderella from 2015. Don’t let that put you off though, Beauty and the Beast is rip-roaring entertaining and quite possibly could be distilled into liquid joy.