BEAUTY AND THE BEAST – Review by Susan Granger

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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. Read on…

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.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.