Susan Granger’s review of “Beauty and the Beast” (Disney)
Bill Condon’s hybrid live action/digital remake of the “tale as old as time” has sumptuous special effects and enhanced character backstories.
Set in rural France in 1740, it introduces brainy Belle (Emma Watson) whose academic father, Maurice (Kevin Kline), has been imprisoned in the Beast’s labyrinthine castle.
Because he was once a spoiled young Prince, spurning pleas for assistance from an old lady/witch, the ghastly, horned Beast (Dan Stevens) has been cursed until he can find true love.
Eager to escape the confines of her provincial village and unwelcome romantic advances by boorish, boastful Gaston (Luke Evans), Belle offers to exchange places with her beloved father.
Welcomed by the Beast’s anthropomorphic household, Belle meets Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson, warbling the title song), her son Chip (Nathan Mack), candelabra Lumiere (Ewan McGregor), mantel clock Cogsworth (Ian McKellen), feather-duster Plumette (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), Madame Garderobe (Audra MacDonald) and her harpsichord husband, Maestro Cadenza (Stanley Tucci).
Their lavishly dazzling, Busby Berkeley-like “Be Our Guest” musical number took six months of planning and 15 months to complete.
Transitioning from Harry Potter’s pal Hermione Granger to fabled Belle, Emma Watson exudes feisty cleverness, ingeniously inventing a laundry mechanism using a horse and a barrel.
Walking on lifts in a prosthetic muscle suit, Dan Stevens (“Downton Abbey”) personifies the gruff yet intellectual Beast via performance capture and MOVA, a facial capture system.
While Beauty and the Beast bond over their shared love of literature, too much has been made of Gaston’s admiring sidekick LeFou (Josh Gad) being gay; it’s a subtle nuance, nothing more.
Adapted by Stephen Chbosky (“The Perks of Being a Wallflower”) and Evan Spiliotopoulos (“The Huntsman: Winter’s War”), it reflects the contemporary social consciousness that’s been raised since 1991, when Disney’s animated version was nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award.
Director Bill Condon (“Dreamgirls”) and musicians Alan Menken have added four new songs, including the bittersweet ballad, “How Does a Moment Last Forever.”
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Beauty and the Beast” is an elegant, yet nostalgic 8. It’s enchanting.