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The Disney princess was always a bookworm, ostracised from her fellow villagers for wandering around with her nose in a novel, but Emma Watson’s Belle has highbrow taste. “It’s about lovers in fair Verona,” she tells a fellow villager of her latest read. Romeo and Juliet’s star-crossed lovers – it’s not exactly an uplifting romance befitting Disney, is it?
In the 1991 version of the story, the film began with a prologue told using stained glass windows to show the Beast and his unfortunate encounter with the enchantress. But fast-forward to 2017 and we get to see Dan Stevens in human form at the very start of the film, arrogantly cavorting around the dance floor with a bevy of beautiful women hanging on his every word. That is until he turns away a mysterious old woman and finds himself with a beastly new look.
The 1991 film depicts Maurice as an inventor and the role remains the same under Kevin Kline’s stewardship. But Belle is a chip off the old block. In the opening scenes of the 2017 version, we see her helping her father with his work, showcasing a mind that’s arguably better than his. And when left to her own devices she comes up with an ingenious way of doing the laundry without having to lift a finger. All that’s required is a donkey, a barrel and a pond. Easy.
The enchantress gets far more screen time in Bill Condon’s film than she did in the Disney animation. As well as her big moment at the start, turning the prince into a beast, Agathe (as she’s now called, played by Hattie Morahan) crops up several times throughout the film, sometimes when you least expect her.
The 2017 version sees the return of all our favourite household items – plus an added bonus in Cadenza. Stanley Tucci plays the composer-turned-harpsichord – and love interest of wardrobe Madame de Garderobe – who’s a dab hand at a dance floor tune and has a wonderful accent to match. The film also sees an expanded role for Plumette, the feather duster and girlfriend of Lumiere, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw.
2017’s Beauty and the Beast introduces us to the husband and wife of Mrs Potts and Cogsworth who live in the village but were rid of all memory of their other halves when the spell was cast. One of the castle servants is truly ecstatic to be reunited with their spouse after years apart – the other, not so much…
LeFou has always been Gaston’s trusty sidekick but in the 2017 update that relationship takes on a different guise. While much has been made of Disney’s first “gay moment”, nothing is explicitly stated about the attraction Josh Gad’s character feels for his muscular companion. There’s no mistaking the torch he carries for Gaston and the film definitely features a “moment” – but it might prove underwhelming for fans expecting (and hoping for) a bit more.
Along with the enchanted rose and mirror, the 2017 film sees the Beast in possession of another magical object: a book that can take its owner to any place in the world they wish to travel. The Beast offers Belle a chance to journey and she picks… Paris. For very spoilery reasons we won’t go into why.
The new Beauty and the Beast soundtrack features all your favourite tracks, from Be Our Guest to Gaston and Belle, but it also has some new tunes up its sleeve, penned by original composer Alan Menken and Tim Rice. Our Song Lives On is sung by Belle and her father before it’s reprised by none other than Celine Dion over the end credits (which are gorgeous, by the way. Don’t go rushing out of the cinema when the film ends). There’s also For Evermore – a number performed by Dan Stevens as the Beast – and Days in the Sun which sees Belle and the household objects mourning the lives they once had.
Beauty and the Beast is released in cinemas on 17th March