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Africa Melane reviews: Latest Beauty and the Beast is both nostalgic and new

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CapeTalk Weekend Breakfast Host Africa Melane reviews the latest movie release of the classic fairytale Beauty and the Beast.

This was always a big gamble. The 1991 animated musical fantasy film was a third attempt by Disney to adapt the French fairy tale of the same name by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont.

The film was a worldwide success and etched in that generation’s consciousness that love is ultimately about showing one’s vulnerabilities.

It also challenged the widely held view that some prince charming would save the day for a damsel in distress. A challenge that Disney continues to reinforce, thankfully, in recent animated movies “Frozen” and “Moana”. More importantly, who would dare take on the eminently enchanting Angela Lansbury as the singing teapot? The answer is simply the genius of Emma Thompson, of course.

The gamble worked. Disney’s live action/digital hybrid ‘Beauty and the Beast’ is at once nostalgic and new. It is dazzling and charming, with some flaws. It has already grossed $1 billion worldwide.

Belle (Emma Watson), a bright, beautiful and independent young woman, is taken prisoner by a beast (Dan Stevens) in its castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle's enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the beast's hideous exterior, allowing her to recognize the kind heart and soul of the true prince that hides on the inside. Watson, already celebrated as a feminist pioneer for her portrayal of Hermione Granger in the “Harry Potter “ movies, is both compassionate and intelligent as ‘Belle’. She devours books, happily challenging tradition and stereotyping.

Stevens is utterly bland in the human form (thankfully mostly left for the last few minutes of the movie). As the ‘Beast’, he is both objectionable and pleasant. He lives opulently in his misery and he is quite decadent in his sorrow.

Stanley Tucci and Audra McDonald as the excitable harpsichord and the operatic wardrobe, Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellen as the suave candelabra and the anxious clock join Emma Thompson’s Mrs. Potts. Gugu Mbatha-Raw is the lissome feather duster. Young Nathan Mack is Chip, Mrs. Potts’s son.

Their singing and banter are so vivid and so natural that you almost take for granted that they appear to be mechanical objects clicking and whirling in physical space, sharing the frame with human characters.

This movie is also a celebration of music. You will find yourself humming: ‘A tale as old as time, a song as old as rhyme’ for days after watching the movie. ‘Belle’ singing that she wants adventure will conjure up images of Julie Andrews. The dinner service would satisfy “Downton Abbey’s” Mr. Carson and it manages to celebrate Broadway and West End.

This film is a spectacle. And perhaps, therein lies its flaws. The flourishes that are so arresting in the movie hide the question of relevance. I left wondering whether Bill Condon had done enough to justify the existence of the movie.

‘Beauty and the Beast’ will bring back a flood of memories. But, will it be memorable?

Director: Bill Condon Writers: Stephen Chbosky, Evan Spiliotopoulos Stars: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Audra McDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw Running time: 02h09


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