Variations on the beauty-beast theme are dime-a-dozen. Even director Bill Condon’s last two ‘Twilight’ installments were similar in theme. Disney’s latest re-jig of the eternal children’s fantasy fairytale “Beauty and the Beast” is more than just another variation of the same old theme though.
The heroine, Belle (Emma Watson), may not be as beautiful as her name suggests but she is different from the norm. She is a bookish, bright and an ingenious young woman who lives with her father (Kevin Kline) in a picture-book French village. A sorceress’ intervention renders her widowed father, Maurice, a prisoner of a disgruntled, hirsute grotesque ram-like beast, who once was a Prince (Dan Stevens); presently cursed for his arrogance and disrespect. The devoted daughter tricks her father into leaving her behind in exchange for his freedom and finds herself the object of Cupid’s arrows trying to undo an age-old curse, which has relegated the Prince’s staff to being household objects of desire.
The ancient fairytale has, of course, been tweaked and quite fashionably too. Condon’s version is presented as a live action musical with plenty of magical elements. While the songs are melodious, the background score is exuberantly orchestrated. Gaston (Luke Evans), a narcissistic cabbage-stomping former soldier, and his adoring pal LeFou (Josh Gad), lend levity to the engagement. The action though is a little less compelling than expected. The choreography and songs are enchanting. The modern nips and tucks are sure to endear it to contemporary audiences. Scriptwriters Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos hint at a psychosexual subtext that is elementally human, but the overall cast of the story is about goodness and spunk, where a woman defies tradition to embrace something beyond her own bucolic upbringing.