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FILM REVIEW Beauty and the Beast
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times
2017-03-21

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Director: Bill Condon. Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans. Running time: 129 min. Release date: March 17

Beauty and the Beast is a "tale as old as time," but this time out there are some new nuances that are expanded on, such as Belle's father Maurice played by Kevin Kline role being meatier. The Beast even sports a man-braid when he dresses to impress.

Why go see a movie that is already done well in 1991 by the Disney cartoon? It's the little touches, such as Maurice painting figurines in his shop or the Beast's massive library that should be witnessed in the theater. The countryside and castle are both breathtaking sights to see on the big screen.

What made the original Disney production such a hit is that it had a timeless musical feel to it. Gay director Bill Condon has had several musical movies under his belt in the past such as Dreamgirls, and Chicago, so he knows what he's doing.

BATB was originally planned with a more serious dramatic approach as seen with Snow White and the Huntsman but this was scrapped. They not only decided to include all the songs from the Disney cartoon but even added new ones. This makes the running time longer, being over two hours, but most of it flies by like a winged feather duster.

The casting of seasoned pros with newcomers pays off well with this version of Beauty and the Beast.

Harry Potter's Emma Watson may not take a selfie with fans these days but she brings her real life book smarts to the part balancing between being an awkward and a strong woman.

Downton Abbey's Dan Stevens takes on the Beast with vigor, and just the right amount of aggression. The choice to make the character a little scarier-looking was a good decision, as opposed to the cutesy one in the cartoon.

Luke Evans plays macho straight man Gaston with much-needed gusto. Dwayne Johnson would have been another good choice for this role after proving he can sing in Moana.

Straight man Josh Gad plays gay man LeFou, who has a man-crush on Gaston. The boycotters in Alabama don't know what they are missing, as the performance is very subtle. There are some drag-queen makeovers, but does that really rank Russia checking IDs of moviegoers before the show?

Out actor Ian McKellen stands out as Cogsworth, while Stanley Tucci is not given much to do as the harpsichord. Ewan McGregor has the show-stopping number "Be Our Guest" that makes it worth the trip to see this in 3D at Navy Pier. I flinched in one scene where water was splashing around because it looked so real.

Worried about Emma Watson's singing? Don't be. Her accent covers any technicals flaws, along with the help of a bit of sound mixing. Worried about the other Emma ( Thompson ) filling the shoes of Angela Lansbury? Her voice work is spot-on and brings the teapot to life in new ways.

This live-action adaptation might be the best one of the bunch competing against Cinderella, Maleficent and Alice in Wonderland. It's as good as the recent The Jungle Book, which just won an Oscar for best visual effects. With Cinderella winning for best costume design in 2016, Beauty could be next in line during award season.

What is next? Possibly a live version of The Little Mermaid starring Emma Stone? Before they put the Academy Award winner in a shell brassiere and cast Adele as Ursula, be sure to visit this magical kingdom soon.


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