REVIEW Beauty and the Beast had its first press screening last night, and the tired-from-awards-season/jaded crowd were unabashedly loving every enchanting second of it. Directed by Bill Condon, (“Dreamgirls,” “Twilight”) this live action version is a shameless and nostalgic love letter to the animated film of 25 years ago.
Enchanting affection is woven into every visually lush scene. We first see the feisty, quirky bookworm Belle (Emma Watson) wandering through her tiny village singing her theme song, “Belle.” Emma has a gorgeous voice and the pluckiness she brings to the role is wonderful. Watson deftly brings this iconic character to life in empowering girl power fashion.
Kevin Kline plays Belle’s doting father Maurice with sweet poignancy. When Maurice is first kidnapped by the Beast (Dan Stevens) because he picked a rose to bring home to his devoted daughter, Belle quickly trades places with him against her Father’s wishes. What follows is the tale that is so known to generations at this point, her falling in love with the Beast and the beloved characters that inhabit that whimsical world.
The “Be Our Guest” number is simply magical. The Beast is more of a downer character than in the animated, but that makes the famed romance more intense and deep. Luke Evans as the narcissistic Gaston is a stand out and Josh Gad, who plays his gay loyal worshipping sidekick Le Fou, steals every scene he’s in. Lumiere (Ewan McGregor) Cogsworth the clock (Ian McKellen) Garderobe the Wardrobe (Audra McDonald) Mrs. Potts,(Emma Thompson) Plumette,(Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Cadenza (Stanley Tucci) are of course all perfect.
The score, by eight time Oscar award winner Allan Menken, who won two awards for this film back in 1991, and three time Oscar winner Tim Rice, is indelibly etched in collective memories. “Beauty and the Beast,” will be released on March 17th and expect another Disney sized major hit. Also expect to be singing those songs for the next week after you see it!
Now that “Beauty and the Beast” is done. Disney proceeds to a live action version of “The Lion King”with James Earl Jones and Donald Glover. And then– why “Aladdin,” of course, fresh from Broadway.