IF it’s not Baroque, don’t fix it.
Those immortal words, uttered in jest by Cogsworth the talking clock in the 1991 animated Beauty And The Beast during a guided tour of his master’s castle, are largely heeded by director Bill Condon for this ravishing live action remake.
The charm, sweetness, heart-tugging romance, infectious songs and rumbustious humour of the original – Disney’s finest hand-drawn animation – have been lovingly polished by screenwriters Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos.
They embellish perfection with original flourishes to set this handsomely mounted tale as old as time apart from its predecessor, including melancholic flashbacks and a curious interlude of time travel that confirms the grim fate of Belle’s mother.
Verses of the Oscar-winning songbook composed by Alan Menken with lyrics by Howard Ashman have been nipped and tucked, then heightened with lush orchestration.
Three sparkling new ballads, courtesy of Menken and lyricist Tim Rice, sit handsomely in this exalted musical company.
The classic story sees strong-willed bookworm Belle (Emma Watson) trading places with her inventor father Maurice (Kevin Kline) as eternal prisoner of an accursed Beast (Dan Stevens) in his crumbling stronghold.
The gloom of incarceration is lifted by the kindness of enchanted servants including tightly wound clock Cogsworth (Ian McKellen), flirtatious candlestick Lumiere (Ewan McGregor), and clinking teapot Mrs Potts (Emma Thompson) and her teacup son, Chip (Nathan Mack).
As petals of an enchanted rose fall, Belle glimpses beneath the fur of her tormented host and acknowledges that ‘there may be something there that wasn’t there before’.
Distinguished by stunning production design, this Beauty And The Beast doesn’t quite scale the dizzy heights of its animated predecessor, but comes delightfully close.
Watson is a spirited heroine and is blessed with a sweet singing voice, and Stevens teases out the humanity of his fallen prince.
Lumiere’s eye-popping Busby Berkeley-esque Be Our Guest is still a showstopper, augmented with shimmering digital effects, and the title song performed by Thompson brings a lump to the throat.
Not once but twice upon a time, Condon’s film promises and delivers a deliriously happy every after.