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Emma tames 'the Beast'

Much has been written about Disney’s ‘Beauty & the Beast’ live action adventure remake; with the emphasis on how much of it is a feminist and diversity upgrade. This is due to its lead star (and the always lovely) Emma Watson’s desire to empower her character and the introduction of a gay character which has led to the film being withdrawn in some overseas markets.

The first thing to report however is that the movie is actually very good and you can probably disregard the political correctness that has steeped into the story. A lot of the reason why it is well worth catching is Emma Watson. She and her character Belle are front and central so she needs to be engaging and empathic –and she is.

The story -for those who don’t know -is based on the traditional 1700’s fairy tale where Belle, young, beautiful and a lover of knowledge (pretty much like her Harry Potter character Hermione in fact) is kept prisoner by the Beast (Downtown Abbey’s Dan Stevens don’t you know), who through a witch’s spell has morphed from prince to beast- as has his friends who turn into everyday objects such as clocks and cupboards.

The characters in the Beast’s palace are voiced by the likes of Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson and Stanley Tucci and they add a lot of humour to the piece as does Kevin Kline as Belle’s over protective widowed father. Further support comes from Luke Evans as Gaston who is keen to have Belle as his trophy wife and his (very campy) side kick Le Fou (Josh Gad).

The theme of the film and indeed the original fairy tale is the epiphany that the Beast has when he morphs from arrogant prince to soulful and loveable lover of Belle-and that in the end ‘all is well’. As a musical it is less impressive than as a film in its own right. Although Emma Watson’s voice is very fine, the music from Howard Ashman and Alan Menken I found rather limiting and lifeless. True, they won an Oscar for it when it was used in the earlier 1991 Disney animated version- but it is not that inspiring.

That said, overall it is good fun and is clearly a huge success as it has taken over $430 million and is expected to gross in advance of $1 billion. Its main appeal will be to the young female audience it is aimed at and essentially the Frozen demographic. That is not me but I still enjoyed it- and so should everyone.