Disney’s Beauty and the Beast has received a live-action revamp, brought to life by Director Bill Condon. The result is a fresh remake on a beloved classic: a film that stays true to the original tale while adding character back-story and substance.

The story centers on Belle (Emma Watson), a young girl from a “provincial” town who takes her father’s place after he is imprisoned in an enchanted castle. Belle’s captor, the Beast (Dan Stevens), is, in essence, imprisoned as well — a young prince who has been cursed and can only return to his human form if he finds true love.

Beauty and the Beast is just the latest project in a series of live-action adaptations by Disney, following Cinderella (2015) and The Jungle Book (2016). Given Beauty and the Beast’s predecessors’ success and the amount of hype in the press leading up to its release, there was a risk that the movie would leave its audiences’ expectations unfulfilled. Fortunately, that was not the case, as the film exceeds expectations.

Watson’s Belle is not a damsel in distress but portrays the princess as a fearless heroine. Belle is strong, independent and kind, making her character an empowering role model. Because she displays these qualities and is ambitious (in this version, she is not just a book lover, but an inventor as well), she is deemed odd by the villagers in town. Prior to her imprisonment in the castle, Belle dreams of a way to escape her confined life in the village.

While Belle initially plans to escape the castle, she finds herself befriending its enchanted staff, who in turn help her discover the beautiful heart within the prince’s beastly exterior. Belle and the Beast soon discover they have quite a bit in common: both are lonely and looking for freedom from their particular circumstances.

Stevens’ ability to portray the Beast’s many emotions is magnificent. Even under all of the costuming and special effects, his eyes manage to capture a wide range of emotions, from the agony his character experiences as a prisoner to the excitement of falling in love for the first time. The complex character with a kind soul gives Stevens’ the chance to shine as an actor, and he capitalizes on it.

-1Rounding out the ensemble cast is many notable names, with Luke Evans as villain Gaston, Josh Gad as his sidekick LeFou and Kevin Kline as Belle’s father, Maurice. The castle servants include Ewan McGregor as Lumiere, Ian McKellen as Cogsworth and Emma Thompson as Mrs. Potts, to name a few.

If you’re afraid that the film will be a carbon-copy of the 1991 version, cast these fears aside. The timeless love story has received several updates to its screenplay, courtesy of screenwriters Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos. Even though there are changes, the story stays loyal to its animated counterpart, embellishing everything there was to love about the original.

The movie is a dazzling spectacle that aims to transport its audience into the fairy tale. Each scene is filled with quintessential Disney magic, with stunning sets and ornate costumes, accented by beautiful songs and a score composed by the original film composer and Academy Award winner Alan Menken. This magic is most prominent in the movie’s iconic ballroom dance scene.

Because of its grand scale, Beauty and the Beast has elevated the typical movie-watching experience and turned it into an event. Condon has taken a story that has touched the lives of many, evident from the many little girls clad in their Belle ballgowns and women wearing tiaras in the audience, and turned it into a cinematic experience.

The PG rated film is a magnificent, delightful movie fit for an audience of all ages. Be advised if you have small children, as the film’s 129 minute run-time might be a little long for its younger viewers.

If you’re looking for a movie that has the ability to take your mind off reality, immerse you in fantasy and inspire you to dream, then Beauty and the Beast is your cup of tea.

Rating: 3.5/4

Photos courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

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