MOVIE REVIEW: Disney remake a beauty-ful story
FANS, fear not. Disney's live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast doesn't trample on the animated classic you remember so fondly.
Director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Chicago) has lovingly updated the fairy tale about a headstrong young woman who encounters a prince cursed to live as a beast until he discovers true love.
All the songs from the animated film you sang along to are back, with a few new ones thrown in.
Emma Watson's Belle is strong and capable, with a confidence tempered by the fact that she's blossomed into a young woman without the guiding hand of her mother.
Belle's relationship with her quirky father Maurice (Kevin Kline) also expands on the original story, and is fleshed out by Belle's discovery of how her mother tragically died.
There are reports the film may be banned in some countries because it features Disney's first openly gay character: Gaston's right-hand man LeFou (Josh Gad).
LeFou's scenes are some of the funniest in the film, but his sexuality isn't as in your face as reports may suggest.
Most children will simply see him as Gaston's chubby fan boy, who is riding the coattails of his ridiculously good-looking friend.
Aside from a few comments that only adults are likely to pick up on, the Gaston-LeFou dynamic comes off as more of a bromance than anything else.
If Disney meant for this gay character to be a grand statement about equality on screen, then they could and should have thrown subtlety to the wind.
Like the controversy over the choice to make Sulu gay in the most recent Star Trek film, or the absurd claims of The LEGO Batman Movie's gay undertones, I think 'gay' LeFou has been blown out of proportion.
And what the LeFou controversy has overshadowed is the fact that this updated version of Beauty and the Beast portrays a much more diverse community.
A good proportion of ensemble and supporting characters, including Madame Garderobe, Plumette and Pere Robert, are all played by black actors.
Again, there's no fuss - they're just part of Condon's magical world.
Condon's vision of provincial France is exquisitely detailed, with painterly visuals full of super-saturated colours adding to the feeling of fantasy.
Motion capture helps Dan Stevens bring The Beast to life, particularly in his facial expressions, and CGI-animated characters blend in well with their living, breathing counterparts.
Disney's new Beauty and the Beast is worthy of becoming a new family classic - and I really hope it does.
Beauty and the Beast opens nationally tomorrow.
Beauty and the Beast
Stars: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline, Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson.
Director: Bill Condon
Verdict: 4.5/5 stars