DIrected by Bill Condon

Screenplay by Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiiotopoulos

Based on the tale by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont

Score by Alan Menken

Cinematography by Tobias Schliessler

Film Editing by Virginia Katz

Casting by Lucy Bevan

Choreography by Anthony Van Laast

Set Decoration by Katie Spencer

Costume Design by Jacqueline Durran

Filmed at Shepperton Studios, Shepperton, Surrey; Berkhamsted Golf Club, THe Common, Berkhamstead, Hertfordsiere; and London, England, UK

The animated feature film Beauty and the Beast has remained a huge favourite of adults and children since 1991. That means most many of these adults with young children were not born yet when it hit the theatres and their young ones who know all the lyrics were many years from being from driving their parents insane from demanding to hear the soundtrack over and over in the minivan. Twenty-six years and now Disney has finally long-awaited released the live-action version of the musical. Walt Disney Studios had a lot to live up to, a live stage musical touring ad nauseum, and roughly $160M on the line (time adjusted, making it the most expensive musical film of all time) of which $15M of that was just for Emma Watson’s upfront. Who knew if audiences would flock to see a live — mostly live — action version of the animated film? And what if it was, pardon the pun, off-key?

Disney nailed it.

As spectacular as the animated version is, technology has leapfrogged since it was released. This Beauty and The Beast is ravishing, dazzling, bewitching… There are many more adjectives that describe this breathtaking musical, but you will search for words to capture the magic as you try to explain the allure to others. For right now, let us leave it at one you will want to see again and again.

If you remember every moment of Disney’s original film, you will notice some welcome additions. Some musicals numbers the late, incredibly talented Howard Ashman wrote for the 1991 movie were considered too risqué. Not so with with version. Some of his more adult lyrics were added to “Gaston” and “Beauty and the Beast.” New songs are “Evermore,” “Days In the Sun,” and “How Does a Moment Last Forever.”

Some conservative groups, and the government of Malaysia, think the hints that LeFou is gay make the film boycottable. They need to  consider that A) I just made up that word, B) if they think that is news they need to watch the animated version again, and C) they are hints, not frottage. When I saw the film the opening night there were plenty of little children there and when the mild jokes were made about LeFou’s affection for Gaston, there was no tittering as if someone had said the word “butt,” they laughed along with the jokes, understanding exactly what was going on and enjoying the humour. So, buck up, you all. Your children are learning about sexuality and learning tolerance; the only thing you can teach them is intolerance. Who wants to add to the hate in this world? Certainly not you.

Part of the entertainment of live-action musicals is discovering that actors you enjoy watching are also singers. Of course, if you’ve seen Moulin Rouge, you know Ewan McGregor can belt one out and Emma Watson’s singing voice sounded like a lovely version of her speaking voice. But, Dan Stevens? That baritone? Honestly, I went to the soundtrack listings to see who dubbed for him and it was definitely Stevens’ voice. Well done, David Haller. Audra McDonald’s voice has stunned us for her entire career. Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Josh Gad we’ve heard and enjoyed. Luke Evans has appeared in many West End musicals, so he already has the triple-threat chops. Emma Thompson can do anything, really. There was one surprisingly weak member of the cast; Kevin Kline who portrayed Belle’s father Maurice. His singing contribution was extremely brief and extremely weak. As far as his acting? The phrase “phoning it in” is apropos in this case. Shocking in a cast where everyone else was expected to be able to sing, dance, and act. Perhaps, his name recognition got him the role. Whatever the reason, it seems unfair to the other, more talented actors who must have been considered.

CGI is used in this live-action version. With Dan Stevens dancing around on stilts and platform shoes with a motion-capture suit, CGI is  decidedly a big part of the end result. Dan Stevens’ Beast face was considered as a mask, but special effects were the final choice and it was a wise one. If you doubt that it looks like the actor, wait for a smile and see that crooked one that lifts only the left side of his mouth and you’ll recognise him right away, that and those Carribbean blue eyes. Perhaps a greater secret is that Evans performed the dangerous fight scene towards the end of the film himself without a stunt double. Emma Watson had to learn to ride and the weeks were well worth it; to see her and not a stunt person galloping to the castle adds to the drama.

The story has been slightly changed, In fact, viewers who haven’t seen the original film in some time my not even notice, but they are changes that make the story fresh and new. As does the addition of one new character and the loss of one character. Gaston has changed. Some of the landscapes is different, also. Of course, there are other changes, small and large, that you will discover for  yourself when you go to see Beauty and the Beast one, two, who knows how many times. The was applause from the audience when the film ended, which is always a good sign. On the way out people were already talking of going to see it again

Sparkling, glinting, darkness, shadows, and an iconic dance scene more gorgeous and romantic than the original — hard to imagine,isn’t it? I can tell you how enchanting it all is, how glittering, but you won’t really understand what I mean until you see Beauty and the Beast for yourself. And, whether you have children or not, you just keep keep telling yourself you’ve only come to see it once just of curiosity .But, you’ll be back.

You’ll all be back. I know I will,